TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. One of the newest miniseries on Netflix is a six-part drama called "Behind Her Eyes," which our TV critic David Bianculli says is absolutely astounding but difficult to talk about. He's not going to divulge or even detail its central mysteries and surprises because he says they're both pivotal and excitingly original. Here is his spoiler-free but very enthusiastic review.
DAVID BIANCULLI, BYLINE: "Behind Her Eyes" is based on the 2017 novel by Sarah Pinborough, and if you've read that book, you already know what to expect. But if you have no idea, you want to do everything you can to keep it that way and come to this new six-part Netflix miniseries as uninformed as possible. Just promise yourself in advance that you'll stay with it and allow its secrets to slowly reveal themselves. Get to the end, the very end, and I all but guarantee you'll be ready to start watching the whole thing all over again immediately.
In one sense, the story is a basic romantic drama involving a divorced single mom and a couple that's been married for 10 years. But nothing in "Behind Her Eyes" is that basic, not even the geometry of its romantic triangle. And what begins almost as a romantic comedy finds itself flirting with different genres as it progresses - a bit revenge thriller here and something else entirely a little later. Think of movies that stunned you by pulling the rug out from under you, movies with key central shocks like "The Sixth Sense" and "The Usual Suspects" and "The Crying Game" and "Seven." "Behind Her Eyes" is right up there and also connects at one point literally with "Alice In Wonderland."
And yet it starts so casually. Simona Brown plays Louise, a single mom, out for a rare night at the pub. She literally bumps into a handsome stranger - David, played by Tom Bateman - and the two of them drink, joke and end the night with a kiss before he quickly and apologetically breaks it off and leaves. A few days later, David reports for his new job as a psychiatrist, and when he enters his office, there stands Louise. He has no idea why, but she does. And she also knows by now that he's married.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BEHIND HER EYES")
TOM BATEMAN: (As David) Oh, God, it's you.
SIMONA BROWN: (As Louise) Yes, it's me. What happened? It was nothing. And we were both drunk. And trust me - I have no intention of telling anyone about it. So I think we both do our best to - like it never happened, then there's no reason we can't just get along. And no one will ever know, OK?
BATEMAN: (As David) What are you doing here?
BROWN: (As Louise) Oh, right, yeah, I'm your secretary three days a week.
BATEMAN: (As David) You are.
BROWN: (As Louise) What are the odds? Oh, I actually saw you yesterday when you came in. Then I hid.
BATEMAN: (As David) You hid.
BROWN: (As Louise) In the toilet.
BATEMAN: (As David) I'd probably have done the same, to be fair.
BROWN: (As Louise) I'm not sure me and you hiding in the ladies' would've served the right purpose.
BATEMAN: (As David) You're funny. I remember that.
BIANCULLI: The two of them remain intrigued by each other. And early on, there's another complication. In another seemingly accidental meeting, Louise meets David's wife, Adele. She's played by Bono's daughter, Eve Hewson. And like the other two leads, she's wonderful here, totally unmannered, casual, and, as it turns out, inscrutable. They stop at a cafe, and Adele instantly wants to get some inside info from her husband's new secretary.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BEHIND HER EYES")
EVE HEWSON: (As Adele) You must see a side to David I never do. Come on. Dish. What kind of boss is he?
BROWN: (As Louise) It's only been a week, so it's not like I know him, really. But he's nice, professional. And the patients seem to like him.
HEWSON: (As Adele) Glad to hear it.
BROWN: (As Louise) So what do you do?
HEWSON: (As Adele) I've never really had a job except for, like, five minutes in a florist. We have money. So I thought maybe we'd have kids. But that hasn't happened - not yet anyway.
BROWN: (As Louise) Do you have any friends in London?
HEWSON: (As Adele) Not really. I met all the partners and their significant others, who are nice enough, but they're all a lot older than me and kind of stuck up, if I'm honest. Oh, God. You probably know them all.
BROWN: (As Louise) They're all a bit stuck up.
HEWSON: (As Adele) But now I've met you.
BIANCULLI: "Behind Her Eyes" explores these new relationships and also some old ones using a slowly revealing series of flashbacks. It ends up requiring an awful lot of these actors, and they deliver flawlessly. So does Steve Lightfoot, who created this adaptation for TV. He was a writer for NBC's "Hannibal," which had lots of visual flair, and created the Netflix series "The Punisher," one of the less impressive Marvel TV shows. But nothing in his past resume hints at the bold vision he and Erik Richter Strand, who directed all six episodes, pull off here consistently and brilliantly. The music choices, the color schemes, even the camera angles - everything has a purpose, even if that purpose isn't revealed fully until the jaw-dropping conclusion. The actors keep you hooked from the very start. Tom Bateman is charming, yet potentially menacing, as David. Simona Brown is not only instantly vulnerable as Louise but instantly lovable. And as Adele, Eve Hewson covers a 10-year time span so convincingly, it's as though she's playing two different people. Watch "Behind Her Eyes." Then watch it again. Then find someone else who has, so you can really talk about it.
GROSS: David Bianculli is a professor of television history at Rowan University in New Jersey and editor of the website TV Worth Watching.
Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, our guest will be Lee Isaac Chung, writer and director of the new film "Minari," about a family of South Korean immigrants trying to make it in rural America in the 1980s. It's based partly on Chung's own experiences. It won a 2020 grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival and just won the Golden Globe for best foreign-language film. I hope you'll join us.
(SOUNDBITE OF JESSICA WILLIAMS TRIO'S "I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU")
GROSS: FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Therese Madden, Ann Marie Baldonado, Thea Chaloner, Seth Kelley and Kayla Lattimore. Our associate producer of digital media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. I'm Terry Gross.
(SOUNDBITE OF JESSICA WILLIAMS TRIO'S "I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.