Margaret Atwood has all the time been a celebrated writer, however the final 12 months has been significantly vital by way of her notoriety and attain. Beginning with the discharge of The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu, many followers have skilled a resurgence of enthusiasm for her work. After all, amount doesn’t all the time equal high quality, so it is smart to be cautious of one other Atwood adaptation trying to generate the identical stage of enthusiasm in the identical 12 months. Fortunately, Sarah Polley’s mysterious and fantastically written Alias Grace earns no such wariness, and the Mary Harron-directed Netflix miniseries is a methodically assembled true(ish) story that appears nice whereas conveying some fairly fashionable themes concerning the true nature of femininity.
Opening in Canada within the late 1850s, Alias Grace introduces us to Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon) as she sits down with Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft), a physician of the thoughts trying to exonerate Grace for the homicide of her employer Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross) and Nancy Montgomery (X-Men star Anna Paquin). As they focus on her previous, Jordan (and by extension, the viewers) progressively develops an obsession with Grace, and he turns into fixated on the query of how a seemingly correct girl may doubtlessly be answerable for such an improper and ugly crime.
The presence of American Psycho‘s Mary Harron can clearly be felt behind the digicam in how the director performs with a way of narrative ambiguity. From the very first episode, we get the mandatory, bare-bones model of occasions: a homicide has been dedicated, and Grace was current to some extent. However the diploma of her guilt eludes us for a lot of the story, and whereas that dubiety isn’t fairly as on-the-nose because the exploits of Patrick Bateman in Harron’s 2000 darkly comedic thriller, Alias Grace successfully leaves us with sufficient unease to marvel if somebody like Grace Marks may certainly be able to the crimes she is accused of.
Talking of Grace, not sufficient could be stated about how properly Sarah Gadon performs because the titular protagonist, Irish brogue and all. The crime that she’s accused of is just one facet of her overarching character, and the present permits us to observe her evolution as she makes the journey to Canada from Eire and experiences all the gender and class-based discrimination of the time. She leans into the contradictions of Grace’s persona, ensuing within the creation of a feminine character who’s neither wholly a sufferer nor absolutely a perpetrator — identical to an actual human being. The miniseries does not need to retroactively exonerate this younger girl who spent years behind bars; it merely needs to know her.
Comparisons between Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s Story are going to be inevitable as soon as individuals have had the chance to observe each Margaret Atwood-adapted collection. Thematically talking, it makes fairly a little bit of sense. Each properties middle on the interior lives of persecuted ladies compelled into servitude, and each inform decidedly darkish tales about how these ladies discover small, however highly effective, methods to insurgent and assert their independence. In that regard, it’s clear to see the shared DNA between each of those well-executed collection.
That stated, Alias Grace is notably totally different from The Handmaid’s Story in the way in which that it is paced. Creator Sarah Polley is much extra deliberate, and significantly extra systematic with the storytelling right here, and Alias Grace feels extra like a novel in the way in which that its story performs out — which is one thing that turns into increasingly more obvious as you progress by the collection. This isn’t a large-scale story concerning the decline of a contemporary civilization right into a Victorian-esque dystopia; it’s a professional recreation of the Victorian Period tightly wound round a way more intimate story of 1 younger girl who may very well be culpable within the homicide that she’s accused of. Or is she?
After all, with that systematic form of storytelling, there come a number of dangers. Particularly, Alias Grace will doubtless not be the kind of present that each single Netflix subscriber can palette. This can be a darkish, brutal, and infrequently overbearingly atmospheric collection that pulls no punches in its depiction of 19th-century life for a younger immigrant girl. Furthermore, the sluggish burn makes a present like Alias Grace far much less bingeable than the average Netflix series.
These aren’t essentially criticisms within the grand scheme of issues, however they’re vital to determine the truth that Alias Grace isn’t an “simple” watch. The dense materials, nonetheless, will usually reward captive and energetic viewers who’re keen to interact with it and never devour it passively. This isn’t a reduce and dry crime drama, however when the ultimate credit roll, one factor is for sure: you’ll know precisely who Grace Marks is.
Alias Grace debuts on Netflix on Friday, November three at 12:01 a.m. PT. Trying past this Margaret Atwood adaptation, make certain to take a look at CinemaBlend’s complete fall TV premiere guide to see what else is on the horizon for the small display screen! To listen to what we have now to say about every little thing on the earth of streaming content this month, make sure you hearken to The Cord Cutter Podcast.