Television Review: All the Light We Cannot See

I’d heard good things about the mini-series, All the Light We Cannot See, that went up on Netflix a while ago. I read the book back in 2016, which I enjoyed (gave it an 8/10), though honestly I couldn’t remember much of it other than that it was set in World War II. After watching it, my memories of the book didn’t exactly come flooding back, so I can’t evaluate it as a good or bad adaptation, though I can say I only gave it a 7.5/10, so that would seem to imply I thought the book was better. (Also, there’s the fact that the book won the Pulitzer and the Carnegie and was shortlisted for the National Book Award . . .)

The show isn’t bad by any stretch. It follows two different main characters, a blind young French woman, and a young German soldier. They have no connection to each other, except for the fact that both of them listened to the same radio show when they were children. The war intruded into both of their lives, and they ultimately ended up in the same city at the same time.

The production values are high. The acting is solid. The plot is fine. So why didn’t I rate it higher? I think it was because it didn’t grip me in any tangible way. I enjoyed watching it, but I didn’t exactly feel an overwhelming desire to find out what happened next. Perhaps the plot had something to do with this, now that I think about it. Or not the plot, but rather the way the plot was presented. The characters were certainly in danger multiple times, but at no point did I really feel like they would actually be killed. It just didn’t feel like that sort of a show, if that makes sense. I’m not saying the characters don’t die (and I’m not saying they do), but without that constant tension, the show just lacked the oomph it needed to get to the next level.

Of course, the problem with a 7.5/10 score isn’t that I didn’t like the show. Rather, it’s that I’m not going to tell people they need to see it. “Perfectly serviceable, enjoyable experience” isn’t exactly something that makes someone read a review and decide they’re going to run out and watch the thing. So should you? Well, if you like World War II dramas that are well produced and contained within four episodes, then sure. I think you’d watch this and have a good time. But if you’re not in that target audience, the recommendation becomes less urgent.

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