Hello readers, those who read my reviews regularly will know I had mentioned in my review of the Netflix series “Maid” that I will review more international TV shows. Well, it has been a long time since then (sorry about that) and here I am with a review of another Netflix limited series “Anatomy of a Scandal.” The series is an American production, developed for Netflix by David E. Kelley and Melissa James Gibson, based out of a book of the same name written by British author Sarah Vaughan.
The story centers around James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend), a family man, Home Office Minister of Britain and a close friend of the Prime Minister, Tom Southern. Just when Tom Southern is starting to face opposition from within his own party, James’s affair with a former employee of his, Olivia Lytton (Naomi Scott), becomes public news. His wife Sophie Whitehouse (Sienna Miller) decides to forgive and stand-by him, owing to the long relationship they have had since their college days. The news of the affair almost dies down; however, just when the couple think they are out of the woods, James is arrested by the police after Olivia files a case against him accusing him of rape. The rest of the story is basically a court-room drama with both the accuser and the accused trying to prove their side of facts through their testimonies.
Both Olivia and James admit to being in a consensual relationship for a couple of months. However, Olivia says James raped her one night whereas James presents a slightly different version of events. James’ defense counsel, Angela Regan, does her best to prove that Olivia is a liar; on the other side is Kate Woodcroft (Michelle Dockery), who is extremely invested in the case due to personal reasons, and strives hard to prove James’ guilt. Amidst this quest for justice, relationships and friendships are tested and guilt and innocence are debated. In particular, the story makes us uncomfortably aware of the ripple effect such accusations have on the people closest to the accused.
The best thing about this series, for me, is the way it explored the concept of consent. It made me think and question deeply about certain things I never had to think about before. It also showed glaringly the prejudices and “victim blaming” tendency that still persists collectively in the society.
I especially loved the way Sophie’s character has been written; she starts off as this devoted wife and mother, who is mired in her own narrow world and thinking. Her moral dilemma, her confusion about whom to believe and what path to take, the doubts she harbors about her ability to do the right thing for her children and the journey she goes through during the whole fiasco, makes her question herself and her beliefs, and has been portrayed wonderfully by Sienna Miller. Her character adds a completely different dimension to an otherwise common storyline and makes it more complete. The character is powerful and Miller has delivered a powerful performance as Sophie. In fact, I loved her performance the most amongst all the actors.
Not that the other actors are any lesser; every one of them are so completely steeped in their characters that we only see those characters on screen. Rupert Friend has managed to appear charming, charismatic, friendly, sinister, arrogant and entitled all at the same time. James is someone who has a façade in front of the world and only shows Sophie his true self; essentially, he is playing someone else on top of being the character, almost all the time, and Rupert has pulled that off spectacularly.
The places where the story takes us are a delight to watch and they have been captured beautifully by the cinematographer. The editing technique used during the flashback sequences is unique; I particularly liked the way the scenes segued into the next, when a character recounts his/her memories of the incident. The techniques they have used to portray the immersive experience, that recounting a traumatic experience can be, is creative and fresh. Big points to the director and the team for that. There is also a twist in the story involving a vulnerable and strong character ( I don’t want to spoil it), which provides another interesting plot point, and I liked that very much.
For all its positive points, the show however, though interesting, could not go beyond enjoyable. I will say it is definitely engaging; I cared for the characters and what they are going through. I wanted to know what the truth is and felt compelled to play the guessing game. But I was just not hooked into it. Most importantly, I felt the climax could have been different and better. It was a complete let down after having greatly enjoyed the story till then and the writing of the final episode definitely let it down to some extent.
However, I would still recommend this series for people who have time in their hands on a weekend and want to watch a different perspective of the common philandering husband story.
This series gets 7 out of 10 stars.
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