The Undoing is a six-part HBO psychological thriller drama mini-series based on the 2014 novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz. for the purpose of this review, I shall be splitting my comments into two parts. Episodes one to three will be covered in The Undoing – Part I. So whenever I refer to The Undoing – Part I, I am discussing the first three episodes.
The plot centres around therapist Grace Fraser (Nicole Kidman) who lives in New York with her oncologist husband Jonathan (Hugh Grant) and her teenage son Henry (Noah Jupe). On the surface, it appears that Grace has the perfect life but of course, by the end of the first episode, it is obvious that things are not as they seem. (Mmm, where have we heard that before?)
The inciting incident that defines the story is the grisly murder of Elena Reyes (Matilda De Angelis) – whose son attends the same school as Henry – and the inditement of Jonathan as the killer. This key event becomes the “Undoing” mentioned in the title as Grace’s world collapses around her.
What makes The Undoing work, in my opinion, is its ability to maintain the mystery of the story and cast red herrings into the narrative, without sacrificing the internal logic of the story. Even Grace, our protagonist, may be an unreliable narrator in this case, as her own role in the murder has yet to be established.
It is this state of play, that keeps the viewer well on edge as it is not merely a story about Grace trying to do what she can to prove the innocence of her husband, but Grace’s own complicity in the murder has not been firmly set out. Thus, this facilitates the insertion of tense cliffhangers to close each episode.
The casting of the key characters is impeccable. Kidman is brilliantly duplicitous as the conflicted Grace. Grant is his usual relatable self and veteran thespian Donald Sutherland digs deep whenever he appears, as Grace’s father Franklin Reinhardt. Young Jupe also pulls the heartstrings, as the audience gets to emphatize with Henry’s cruel plight.
Strong writing and acting certainly distinguishes The Undoing – Part I. The story seemed cut and dried early on with apparent narrative dead ends that writer-produce David E. Kelley does a fantastic job with twisting, surprising the audience with each episode.
A top notch mini-series that deserves full attention. Highly recommended.
… still there’s more …