Behind Her Eyes
- Brian Donaldson
- 18 February 2021
Humdrum psycho-thriller meets otherworldly oddity for a novel adaptation that is likely to irritate than beguile
Published in 2017 with the marketing campaign hashtag #WTFThatEnding, Sarah Pinborough's psycho-thriller novel promised to deliver one thing at the very least. This six-part TV adaptation has attempted, as much as is possible in the digital age, to play down fevered anticipation of the mayhem that's coming. A quick scan of readers' responses reveals the very definition of a split opinion, and initial press reaction to this Netflix affair has elicited comments ranging from 'charmed' to 'stupid' and 'bonkers'.
Writing a non-spoiler review of Behind Her Eyes is a tricky task, but it's not giving too much away to discuss that its genre-hopping ways will either enthral or infuriate, with reality merely a pesky concept that needs to be tossed aside for its finale to succeed. But even if you're on board for its questionable denouement, you won't be short of reasons to dismiss Behind Her Eyes as implausible nonsense.
London might be a big place but not even that vast metropolis can prevent a single mother Louise (Simona Brown) having a flirtatious evening in the pub with David (Tom Bateman, not wielding the greatest Scottish accent you've ever heard), a total stranger who the next day turns out to be her new boss. David is a psychiatrist whose marriage to Eve Hewson's rather off-kilter Adele is as unstable as his wife appears to be. When Louise and Adele literally bump into each other in the street, Louise immediately recognises the woman who attended David's induction ceremony at the clinic (do partners ever go to things like that?). Flashbacks of Adele's previous life in an unspecified rehab centre sets up the backstory upon which the later mayhem fully relies.
Against their better instincts, Louise and David fling themselves into a passionate affair, while unbeknownst to him she and Adele have struck up a friendship on the side. There is, inevitably, a secret or two to be uncovered and a couple of mysteries for the solving, but three episodes in we seemed to be no nearer their completion. Among the repetitions and feet-dragging within each episode, we have a series of night terrors (both Adele and Louise suffer from them, handily enough) being replayed time and time again. The back half of the series crams in some hocus pocus and unlikely scenarios before unleashing that finale which, if you think about it too hard, is at best morally questionable and at worst eye-wateringly offensive. On the upside, Hewson delivers a more impressive performance than her low-key efforts in The Knick and The Luminaries suggested she had in her armoury, while Robert Aramayo, as Adele's rehab pal Rob, has clearly studied and practiced a credible Scottish brogue.
Striking a balance between earthy mystery and otherworldly surrealism has been the challenge for many TV-makers with Twin Peaks acting as the towering template. But given David Lynch's back-catalogue, those shifting sands were taken as read. Here, we are treated to hours of humdrum psycho-thriller fare before the gloves come off and all-out delirium takes over. But the more bizarre elements of Behind Her Eyes ultimately feel tacked-on and rushed rather than organic and integral. It's fair to say that after viewing this six-parter, we're still waiting for the next David Lynch.
Watch now on Netflix.