Tranquillum House is an exclusive and upmarket wellness retreat, run by the mysterious and ethereal Masha (Nicole Kidman with a dodgy Russian accent). Attendance is by invitation only, so when nine highly stressed guests arrive, it’s a guessing game as to what might connect a family reeling from suicide, a formerly successful romance novelist, a social media influencer and more. With promises that they will ‘be fixed’, will the nine survive the trials ahead of them? Oh, and will Masha survive the mysterious death threats she’s been receiving…?
Big Little Lies was some of the best TV I’ve seen, so twisty and gripping, so it really wasn’t so surprising that other Leanne Moriarty books were instantly destined for adaptation. I read and fairly enjoyed the book, Nine Perfect Strangers, but it definitely didn’t live up to BLL. And before much of this series was shown, it seemed like the translation to screen was more miss than hit.
Still, I decided to give it a go, and to be honest: I was pleasantly surprised! So perhaps going in with very low expectations is the way to enjoy this. Or perhaps already knowing some of the mystery’s direction, so it won’t disappoint – although the TV show changes quite a bit.
Others have branded this ‘disappointing’, especially with the talent on board. I really enjoyed the performances. Stand out may have been Melissa McCarthy, of whom I’m not usually a fan but here was restrained and sweet and damaged and spiky, all. Nicole Kidman fit her role as a wellness guru perfectly, just a shame about the dodgy ‘Russian’ accent. We also have Regina Hall, Luke Evans, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Shannon, Manny Jacinto, and more, and all thoroughly impressed playing highly damaged characters.
That said, it’s not the gripping, twisty, edge of the seat stuff of BLL, and I suspect that’s where a lot of the poor reviews are coming from – that and a surprising lack of tension in a pivotal scene near the end. I was quite surprised to find myself binge-watching it anyway: it was just compelling enough, and I was rather fascinated by the look at the wellness retreat and how… messed up… that industry can be. And yet, for all the insanity that ensues, the overall message is surprisingly nice, albeit in a very weird way.
The ending is… unspoilable, obviously, but once you’ve seen it then I do recommend a websearch for an alternative way of looking at the epilogue scenes – hadn’t occurred to me that way, but actually: yes!
I do get why others weren’t enthralled, but I rather enjoyed this. It’s not top-notch, and yeah, I can see where the ‘disappointing’ crept in, but for 8 episodes of great acting, a decent enough story, and a far more gentle world view than I was expecting – yeah, I’m glad I stuck with it.
First broadcast: August 2021
Episodes: 8 @ ~42-55 mins each
My rating: 7/10