Tuesday 3 October 2023

TV review: The Sinner, Netflix (2017-21)

This slow-moving crime noir features Bill Pullman as an unlikely detective who revels in a bit of S&M on his days off, I really liked the secondary themes of redemption and the need to find a reason behind each killing rang true. I’ve been watching another Netflix TV show titled ‘Criminal’ which features detectives in the interview room, a low-budget production with long takes that relies purely on dialogue and it also requires the REASON for the crime to be evident before the cops will charge someone. 

With ‘Criminal’ there’s also a French version which only unfortunately runs to three eps. ‘The Sinner’ runs to four seasons with each season having about eight eps. This is slow crime, moody and muted, dark and uncomfortable where the dialogue takes you to places other than where you set out from, a living room or a den in a house you’ve been living in seemingly forever. The fact that there’s a truth to uncover is an added bonus but the main part of the action is in the feelings you get while watching the incremental progress of the story, watching the close-ups of faces that hardly change expression.

With ‘The Sinner’ you also get nice northern/New Englandy settings. Season four was shot entirely in Nova Scotia so there are pine trees and there’s cold, clear water. In one scene Harry Ambrose the main character is submerged in the water as though he’s being baptised. This is in season four. Also in season four there are tiny charms the girl who seems to jump off a cliff (did Harry really see that, it was late and dark and his mind might’ve been playing tricks) had put about the landscape. A tiny ceramic Buddha is among them, but what does it mean?

The issues that this show deals with are interesting and the ways it deals with them are intelligent. This is in contrast to most crime dramas which always seem to take one of a number of superficial approaches to the subjects they deal with. ‘The Sinner’ is about the dialogue so as you’re watching, as in any good soap opera, it’s not the plot so much as the things the characters say that drags you under, lulls you with a sense of right, and leaves you quietly musing on the shore of your imagination. I loved both ‘The Sinner’ and ‘Criminal’ because they show what crime can be in competent hands.

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