The Eddy is a new Netflix miniseries about a Parisian jazz club dealing with everyday struggles, brought to life by writer Jack Thorne (This is England, His Dark Materials) and Oscar-winner Damien Chazelle. Make no mistake, though, this isn’t like any other of Chazelle’s musical works.
In fact, anyone familiar with the La La Land director, who helms the first two episodes, may be surprised by the direction he takes with this marvellous show which, by the way, is around 50% English and 50% French. Whilst La La Land played like a fairytale with its glossy style, The Eddy is visually closer to his astronaut biopic First Man, using handheld 16mm cameras for a guerilla-style shoot in the gritty arrondissements of Paris. Furthermore, it’s hardly a musical – it just happens to revolve around musicians who’ve been significant to Chazelle’s oeuvre since his debut.
Elliot (André Holland) is the troubled American co-owner of jazz club The Eddy, which he runs with Farid (Tahar Rahim), whose upbeat attitude is the opposite of his fellow boss. The protagonist’s anxiety exacerbates when the fate of the club is jeopardised once it’s revealed that Farid is indebted to splenetic loan sharks. Hard times ensue: the perfect storm of outsider threats, internal conflicts between the central band fronted by Elliot’s sometimes-girlfriend Maja (Joanna Kulig), and Elliot’s plate getting fuller by the arrival of his wayward daughter Julie (Amandla Stenberg).
The John Cassavetes-esque, vérité aesthetic is smoothly maintained by the brilliant filmmakers who follow Chazelle in directing two episodes apiece: Alan Poul, Laïla Marrakchi and Divines director Houda Benyamina. Plot-allergic, character-driven and consistent in quality, seven of the eight episodes are titled after different characters spotlighted in each one, whilst the final instalment is a panoramic view of the ensemble.
Julie and Sim were this writer’s favourite episodes: both revolved around two lovestruck youths, depicting a complex portrait of adolescence that understands the fine emotional nuances between carefreeness and taking responsibility when you’re young. For Sim (Adil Dehbi), the club’s errand boy, there’s also the socioeconomic subtext of the minority ethnic experience. One of the powerful aspects of the show is how it casts a light on French-Algerians; presenting the community in no small part, showing them in their domesticity to an extent not usually seen.
Episodes like Jude and Katarina, which focus on two band members, bring initially minor characters to the forefront, implicating their importance to The Eddy’s future whilst deftly exploring their lives outside the band, interweaving themes of love, sacrifice and tenacity. The series is musically lovely, with several memorable jazz performances, and the personal stakes give impetus to binge.
The terrific cast is eminently watchable and it’s no surprise – it’s the magic of assembling world-class talent who collectively have a body of work that features some of the best films of the 21st century, including Cold War, A Prophet and Moonlight. The Eddy is another major highlight in the careers of everyone involved and undoubtedly one of the great shows of 2020.
The Eddy is released digitally on demand on 8th May 2020.
Watch the trailer for The Eddy here: