Before Watching Netflix's All The Light We Cannot See, There's 1 Thing You Should Probably Know

Early reviews for the new miniseries have branded it a "shonky, star-studded dud", a "turgid mess" and simply "terrible". Ouch.
Aria Mia Loberti in All the Light We Cannot See
Aria Mia Loberti in All the Light We Cannot See

It’s the much-hyped Netflix series from director Shawn Levy. But now the initial reviews are in for All The Light We Cannot See - and we’re sorry to say that they are not good.

Starring Mark Ruffalo, Hugh Laurie and rising stars Aria Mia Loberti Louis Hofmann, the mini-series is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning 2014 novel from Anthony Doerr.

Debuting on the streaming service on Thursday, the short series follows the lives of two teenagers during the height of World War II: Marie-Laure, a blind French girl and Werner Pfennig, a German boy who is forced to join and fight for the Nazi Regime.

However, critics have so far branded the latest offering from Stranger Things executive producer Levy and Peaky Blinders writer Steven Knight “a shonky, star-studded dud”, “a trite, turgid mess” and quite simply “terrible”... eek.

Here’s a selection of what critics have said about All The Light We Cannot See so far…

“It is terrible. The acting is almost uniformly bad. The dialogue gets worse and worse (or if it’s Von Rumpel’s, vurse and vurse). All nuance is lost, all thought has been excised and it feels both drearily slow and stupidly rushed.

“Maybe this superficial, self-indulgent mess would have come over more favourably if war hadn’t just broken out again in the real world, but them’s the breaks. Though even in the middle of a long unbroken peacetime, this was never going to do more than look good.”

“The casting of visually impaired actors to play Marie (old and young) was a good decision, giving the role an important physicality. The casting of Ruffalo, on the other hand, was a misstep. I would make a joke about his acting being jambonny, except that there is nothing even vaguely French about his performance. He speaks like a man who has never met a human being before [...] Hugh Laurie, meanwhile, chooses to do almost nothing with his take on Uncle Etienne – an altogether more successful decision.

“The show could be forgiven some shonkiness and self-indulgence if the central chemistry between Marie and Werner was coherent. But the achronological telling wreaks havoc with their relationship, and the German soldier is relegated to a footnote. What’s left is a cartoonish portrait of a Nazi in pursuit of a blind girl’s diamond, which does little credit to the sheer scale of suffering endured in both our recent history and the contemporary moment.”

Aria Mia Loberti and Mark Ruffalo on the set of the new Netflix drama
Aria Mia Loberti and Mark Ruffalo on the set of the new Netflix drama

“It’s epic, it’s sweeping, it’s other adjectives that get applied to period productions. It’s also as subtle as a doodlebug. Writer Steven Knight and director Shawn Levy have clumsily scissored the source material to make it less dark and more optimistic. The result is preachy, sanitised and sentimental.

“Characters who were delicately nuanced on the page are drawn in rudimentary strokes on screen. Heroes are all saintly: the disabled beauty, the noble orphan, the charismatic freedom fighter. Villains are all cartoonishly evil: morphine-addicted monsters, sneering sadists, greedy gem-hunters. Ruffalo’s mangled sing-song accent wanders randomly across the continent, often within the same sentence.

“Levy is best known for family-friendly blockbusters such as Night at the Museum. He has duly reduced a lyrical novel into a Ladybird view of history, drenched in a sickly soundtrack. This series looks lavish, all CGI set pieces and painterly compositions, but it’s style over substance. For a more convincing Second World War saga, you’d be better off with an episode of ’Allo ’Allo.”

At four hours, All The Light We Cannot See is just barely longer than the feature film it nearly became when producer Scott Rudin first optioned the rights. A more extended story may have enriched its protagonists beyond figureheads for innocence, integrity or loving parenthood.

“In its current form, All The Light We Cannot See calls on viewers to acknowledge the complex humanity of others while failing to depict much itself.”

Louis Hofmann plays Werner in the new miniseries
Louis Hofmann plays Werner in the new miniseries

“It’s safe to say there was a twinge of disappointment when I finished the series and felt slightly short-changed by the four hours of television I’d sat down to.

“All the Light We Cannot See is visually impressive and can feel like a movie in places, with its glossy production. But, unfortunately, the quality desperately lacks in other places such as the convincing writing of these characters and their four-episode arcs.

“It’s a shame, really, as with the likes of Laurie and Loberti, their acting could’ve been put to better use. That being said, their scenes together provide some of the real warmth of the series. If only there was more of it.”

“All The Light We Cannot See has good things going for it, including a radiant lead performance from newcomer Aria Mia Loberti. It’s very nicely shot and James Newton Howard’s swelling score offers no doubt on when you’re supposed to feel things.

“But its similarity to the book dwindles with almost every passing moment to the point that, by the aforementioned third episode, almost nothing that happens on the screen has any connection to what was on the page. And almost every change makes the material louder, clumsier and less emotionally rich.”

All The Light We Cannot See is available to stream now on Netflix.


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