Historical dramas are always the object of adoration and, in most cases, they are among the favorite genres of the audience aficionado of series and films. In recent years, this type of storytelling has gained immense popularity, and such unpremeditated acceptance has earned contemporary television gems such as “Downton Abbey”, set in the early 20th century, “Penny Dreadful”, recreating a supernatural London from the end of the 20th century to the 19th century, and “The Crown”, a gem to be enjoyed with the utmost caution, chronicling the troubled reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
Of all the aforementioned plot elements, the believable recreation of the era-appropriate atmosphere is one of the most noticeable to fans. And, following the high standing of similar shows, ‘Alias Grace’ finds a place in the hearts of that audience by surprising and reaching expected expectations, especially in the case of a novel by Margaret Atwood (author of the great book literary and television hit “The Handmaid’s Tale”). Unlike his most famous work, centered on a dystopian and theocentric future, the series in question takes place in the Canadian period of conflict when the territory was constantly “invaded” by Irish and Scottish immigrants – more precisely in the middle of the 19th century. . The main plot revolves around the main character Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), whose name can be considered ironic (grace means grace, in English), since her life was marked by a constant storm of tragedies.
In the very first chapter, scrutinized by a non-linear montage that recalls the narrative transgressions of the surrealist avant-garde at the beginning of the last century, we discover that the young girl has been accused of having murdered her bosses, inciting herself to handyman James McDermott (Kerr Logan) to carry out his evil plan. However, unlike her partner, who was sentenced to the gallows, Grace remained almost untouched by greater forces, being supported by many names and social classes of respect, who repeatedly stated that she only worked as an influential apex in the plans drawn up by the troubled. man. .
This already leads us to perceive a pattern of misunderstanding on the part of the protagonist’s personality – and she insists on reminding us of this in an interesting constant, in a voiceover as enigmatic as her own words. She is called mad, ignorant, murderous, lover, prostitute, naive and countless other adjectives that turn her into a very superficial social construct for the psychological depth she carries – and, as if that weren’t enough, the dialogues are marked by their own poetics of Norse mythology (a balanced mix of colors and common names that present themselves as metaphors for everyday life).
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Grace doesn’t understand herself. And she couldn’t, because her little life experience was marred, as mentioned above, by unfortunate events that began when she was just a teenager. During her sessions with psychologist Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft), she discusses her childhood, her mortal times on a slave ship from Ireland to America, and how she survived the loss of loved ones. The sequences taking place on the ship are not only raw in essence, but are endowed with an intoxicating sensoriality that prevents us from taking our eyes off the screen, even with the typical explanation of Atwood’s works: the passage of more close to more open shots contributes to the disconcerting feeling that grips the characters, who have spent eight weeks in degrading conditions to fulfill a long-cherished dream.
Things don’t get much better when they arrive at their destination: Grace’s mother dies during the trip, and the infamous father is the typical alpha male of an extremely traditional family who uses and abuses his patriarchal title to subjugate the women in the family at a lower level. Of course, this is typical of the society of the time, whose face is imprinted with a few contemporary touches precisely to offer a more in-depth discussion; it is therefore not surprising that the young girl leaves home at the first opportunity, even if she has to leave behind her four brothers to start a new life – and it is at this precise moment that a tour de force well designed begins to give faces.
Throughout the story, Grace ends up encountering many archetypes of the hero’s journey. The guardian figure emerges in the brief appearance of Rebecca Liddiard as Mary Whitney, a Parkinson’s family maid who immediately manages to captivate audiences. Her rebellious and revolutionary personality – which testifies to the growing social movements in Canada at the time – is one of the main factors that manages to influence Grace’s serene and almost frightening immobility. In fact, the chemistry between Liddiard and Gadon is of an enveloping purity which leads us to wonder if a spark of love could be born between the two. However, the bonds between them grow stronger over the months, becoming best friends, confidants, and eventually reversing roles when this guardian and protector meets tragic ruin, stemming even from her subordinate status. .
It’s undeniable to say that the protagonist has gone through countless losses – and, as she loses her friend in an act of self-salvation, she develops psychic disturbances justified by overwhelming faith. After all, Grace comes from a religious upbringing that not only rescues Catholic elements, but extends her openness to Celtic (mostly Scottish) mythology to give her some solace. This ideal starts from the premise that the intangibility of faith is one of the reasons that reaffirm human lucidity – coming into conflict with itself for the treatment it receives within the series.
A comic escapism emerges in the inviting and mysterious face of Jeremiah Pontelli (Zachary Levi), a mystical traveling salesman who uses his “Gypsy upbringing” to protect those he loves and provide them with some clarity for the future. On his first date with Grace, the charming boy reads her hand and basically says that “after the storm comes the calm”. And, well, he couldn’t be more correct, given that the turmoil in her life reached dark heights before she finally found her well-deserved peace in an arc of “mandatory redemption” that she shouldn’t have done. party first.
The events that unfold in “Alias Grace” are essential for a radical change in the course of history – and here the narrative and pictorial design is the subject of a gigantic controversy as it brings elements scriptures on screen. Some time after Mary’s death, Grace is invited by Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin), the seemingly kind and motherly housekeeper of Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross), who invites her to help with household chores. It’s undeniable to say that the peace on Nancy’s face is extremely inviting – her clothes and even the color palette around her are adorned with light colors like pale pink and baby blue, turning her into a piece of heaven. who walks in the living world. The metaphor of the Catholic gospel comes right there: behind a mask of kindness, hides the real snake – and the governess goes to great lengths to show her regret at hiring Grace to help her.
After all, Nancy and Thomas are having an affair, and the woman’s jealous personality is something despicable that only causes us disgust. And her troubles are expressed in the form of the degrading tasks of the young girl who, in a sequence, lets her internalized feelings explode for one of the rare scenes of confrontation between social positions. And things get even more harrowing when his demeanor turns into a strangely touching docility.
The series is by no means a pamphleteer; she analyzes the rise and fall of a woman – in the footsteps of ‘Jackie’, a biopic on Jacqueline Kennedy released in 2016 -, with a visual identity that values the whole and the particular. In other words, the framing of the scenes dialogues in parallel with the feeling that one wishes to convey – the bombast and majesty of sovereigns and wealthy families are rectified with general and symmetrical shots that reveal financial stability, while the more intimates value proximity-upward, with an emphasis on luminosity and in the mysticism of the eyes. And that not only serves to connect audiences with such well-crafted characters, but also to condescendingly portray the character played by Gadon – who we saw in an interesting performance in “The Ninth Life of Louis Drax”, but who stray completely out of your comfort zone here. His characterization is mysterious, indecipherable and oblique, with certain adorable mannerisms like the frown.
Of course, the show wouldn’t give up on a supernatural outing – and that’s coming at the end of the season. I already say that the conclusion will not be swallowed by the whole audience, but it is even understandable to consider two main things: firstly, the spiritual question has always been on the agenda among the richest ladies of society, seeking profit in the religious realm from the seances they held in their own homes to find clarity; second, the “embodiment” of the spirit of Mary, responsible for driving Grace to commit such atrocities, leans toward the growing studies of split personalities of the time, predecessors of early 20th century metapsychology.
‘Alias Grace’ is a Netflix smash hit and deserved more attention than it gets, especially on the eve of its fifth anniversary – and its tale not only gives an original and interesting perspective on the period dramas, it reaffirms the literature and television empire of Margaret Atwood, one of the finest writers of her generation and one who is sure to go down in history.
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