The life of a renowned therapist is shattered when a woman is murdered and her husband, the number one suspect, disappears. Kidman and Grant star in this HBO miniseries, written by ‘Big Little Lies’ creator David E. Kelley and directed by Susanne Bier.
Comparisons are always to be avoided, but it’s not by chance that when approaching ‘The Undoing’, the HBO miniseries released Monday October 26, viewers think of ‘Big Little Lies‘. First, because it’s from the same creator and screenwriter, David E. Kelley. Second, because the protagonist and producer, Nicole Kidman, repeats both in front of and behind the camera. And third, because even the premise rhymes.
Kidman plays Grace Sachs, a woman who has managed to tick off everything on her bucket list and achieve all her dreams. A highly successful psychologist capable of seeing what her patients don’t want to or cannot recognize. Her husband, Jonathan Fraser, a renowned child oncologist played by Hugh Grant, a man so patient and devoted to his fragile patients, as he is fun and loving with his family.
They both have a model 12-year-old son: Henry, played by Noah Jupe, a good student, plays the violin and attends one of the most exclusive schools in New York. Tuition costs a whopping $50,000 a year as were told. To top it off, the sex life of the married couple is fantastic. In short, ‘The Undoing’ manages to present the ideal family without making us all cringe into the bargain.
In this extremely wealthy environment, as was also the case in ‘Big Little Lies’, a violent death occurs. A poor young Latina woman whose eldest son had gained access to the elite institution on a scholarship, is found murdered after a charity bash held by the center. At the same time, Grace’s husband, the main suspect, disappears. And her seemingly perfect life crashes down around her.
Secrets and lies begin to explode all around the therapist, who believed herself capable of reading anyone, especially her husband. She, of course, will maintain her innocence in the face of the media and judicial circus sparked around the juicy case, where the obvious social differences between the victim and the accused will be the principal focus of attention.
‘The Undoing’ is therefore constructed as a psychological thriller where all the characters have something to hide and are as such, potentially guilty. Susanne Bier, award-winning director of “The Night Manager” turns New York City into another character in this drama. Hardly surprising therefore, that the Danish director permeates the lens of the dark and tense atmosphere of the Nordic noir. A restlessness that the viewer shares when, as if a voyeur, sneaks into this world of opulence, privilege and violence.
In comparison with the comment or social criticism of ‘Big Little Lies’, ‘The Undoing‘ focuses on narrating Grace’s journey. The camera, often in the foreground, shows how this woman breaks down and recomposes herself to try to stay afloat, protect her son and emerge unscathed from this scandal. Along the way, audiences must ask themselves what and/or who you want to believe. Will Grace be willing to unravel the truth or will she prefer to maintain the fictional concoction that sustained her family? What’s more, will they use their wealth and status to bury this whole thing?
Unsurprisingly, the outstanding performances of Kidman and Grant, each fantastic as the imposing and compassionate Grace and the charming and devious Jonathan, shine through with a cast that is no less impressive. The supporting cast includes highlights like Donald Sutherland as Grace’s father, Lily Rabe as her friend and confidant, Édgar Ramírez as the police detective in charge of investigating the murder, and Matilda De Angelis as the enigmatic and sensual deceased. In this regard, one last reflection, was it really essential to the plot for the victim, Elena Alves, to be cast as this compendium of clichés; the voluptuous, mysterious and tormented artist whose remarkable willingness to undress surprises even the protagonist herself? You’ll have to watch the coming episodes for the answer, every Monday on HBO Spain.