All the Light We Cannot See
Created by Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders) and directed by Shawn Levy (Stranger Things), All the Light We Cannot See adapts the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Anthony Doerr into a four-part miniseries. In it, viewers follow the parallel stories of a blind French girl named Marie-Laure (newcomer Aria Mia Loberti) and German soldier Werner (Louis Hoffman) in an occupied French town in 1944, whose lives are connected by a radio transmission. Beautifully shot and directed with finesse, the Netflix series is visually stunning. But due to a clunky script that contains some bewilderingly befuddling dialogue, the nuance and soul are stripped from the show, ending on an unsatisfyingly emotionless finale.
From the opening shots of American bombers shelling the French town of Saint-Malo, it’s evident that Levy and cinematographer Tobias A Schliessler haven’t wasted a penny of the production budget. Each frame is meticulously crafted and wonderfully lit; it’s one of those series that is just gorgeous to look at, with visual spectacles packed into every episode.
It’s frustrating, then, that almost everything else in the show isn’t up to the same level of quality. While Loberti and Hoffman give solid performances in the lead roles, the supporting cast are less convincing. There’s Lars Eidinger as the Nazi officer tasked with hunting down a supposedly cursed diamond left in Marie’s possession, whose scenery chewing results in him coming off less as a threatening antagonist and more like an overly animated cartoon character. Just as peculiar is Mark Ruffalo’s appearance as Marie’s father in which he delivers his lines with the disconnect of a robot. The performances likewise aren’t helped by a poorly written screenplay, which feels simultaneously over-written and underdeveloped, whereby characters are constantly talking without ever saying anything meaningful.
Alongside the main plotline, the narrative cuts between flashbacks of Marie and Werner’s childhood. Their backgrounds further flesh out the leads, with Werner’s ordeal in a Nazi training institute making for some interesting scenes that are reminiscent of Full Metal Jacket. With the only thematic throughline connecting these plot threads being a radio signal, though, these interconnected stories never quite come together in the way the script hopes.
Despite its arresting visuals and strong leads, Knight and Levy’s All the Light We Cannot See proves to be a disappointingly underwhelming adaptation.
All the Light We Cannot See is released on Netflix on 2nd November 2023.
Watch the trailer for All the Light We Cannot See here: