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With All The Twists And Turns 'Behind Her Eyes,' You'll Want To Watch It Twice

Tom Bateman and Eve Hewson play a couple whose marriage is not what it seems in <em>Behind Her Eyes.</em>
Tom Bateman and Eve Hewson play a couple whose marriage is not what it seems in Behind Her Eyes.

If you've read Sarah Pinborough's 2017 novel Behind Her Eyes, you already know what to expect from Netflix's new miniseries adaptation. But if you don't know what to expect, you ought to do everything you can to keep it that way, and come to this series 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, The Usual Suspects, The Crying Game and Se7en. 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.

The two of them remain intrigued by each other, but early on, there's another complication: In another seemingly accidental meeting, Louise meets David's wife, Adele. She's played by Eve Hewson, who happens to be the daughter of U2 lead singer Bono. Like the other two leads, Hewson is wonderful here; Adele is totally unmannered, casual and, as it turns out, inscrutable.

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 Lightfoot's 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. Bateman is charming, yet potentially menacing, as David. Brown is not only instantly vulnerable as Louise, but instantly lovable. And as Adele, 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.

Copyright 2021 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

David Bianculli is a guest host and TV critic on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. A contributor to the show since its inception, he has been a TV critic since 1975.