The Undoing | Not Only a Murder Story
The Undoing is an HBO adaptation of The New York Times bestseller You Should Have Known by American author Jean Hanff Korelitz. The director is Danish Susanne Bier (The Night Manager, Bird Box) who is the first female director to win an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Primetime Emmy Award. This miniseries, written and produced by David E. Kelley, became HBO’s most-watched series of 2020. It also broke the record previously held by HBO behemoth Game of Thrones, becoming the biggest launch of an American TV show on Sky in the UK.
Murder is certainly the trigger accident that drives the narrative. But The Undoing is not just a murder story. The miniseries aims to explore the mechanisms of the human mind and mental illness.
A story of a murder…
New York City, present day. Grace Fraser (Nicole Kidman) lives what seems to be a perfect life. She is a successful psychotherapist and lives in a beautiful apartment on the Upper East Side. Jonathan (Hugh Grant), her beloved husband, is a skilled pediatric oncologist. They have a young son, Henry (Noah Jupe), who attends one of the most elite private schools in Manhattan. Grace’s flawless life turns upside down after the police accused her husband of the murder of Elena Alves (Matilda De Angelis). Elena is a stain in a rich and glossy world. She is a mysterious woman who walks into Grace’s world a few days before her death. Moreover, Elena is the mother of one of Henry’s schoolmates. As a consequence of the murder, Grace and her family will find themselves trapped in a mental and physical spiral that will drag them downwards.
…and the human mind
The story investigates the human tendency to take a distorted look at reality. Each episode develops around the inner world of the main characters. The viewer enters the characters’ minds, experiences their multiple selves, and feels their fears and suspicions. Indeed, the plot succeeds in overturning the mental balance and the quest for answers of both each character and the viewer.
Thanks to plot twists and cliffhangers, sharp dialogues, and dark visual atmospheres, The Undoing makes the viewer always question each character’s moral integrity and innocence until the “surprisingly unsurprising finale”. The aesthetics of the miniseries and the way it tackles its theme can be compared to the movies Gone Girl (2014) and The Girl on the Train (2016).
Big Little Lies, but on the East Coast
The Undoing marks the return of Nicole Kidman together with producer and screenwriter David E. Kelley after the award-winning TV show Big Little Lies. Half crime fiction half psychological thriller, this show has strong similarities with Big Little Lies. Indeed, The Undoing is a murder story whit complex female characters at the heart of the storytelling. Especially wives and mothers.
But if Big Little Lies explores the role of motherhood within contemporary Western society, The Undoing places the role of the wife under a magnifying glass. Furthermore, it provides an underlying critique of the modern dynamics of white supremacy in the upper-class environment. Finally, The Undoing offers the viewer several ways to get behind the facade of an exclusive world of privileges consisting of fine art, luxurious clothing, private schools, and summer cottages. A glossy world where rich people always seem to get away with it.
The opening credits
Nicole Kidman is singing again. The Undoing also marks the return of Kidman as a singer after her performance in the two times Academy Award-winning musical and romantic drama Moulin Rouge! (2001) directed by Baz Luhrmann. Indeed, she sings a cover of the song Dream a Little Dream of Me which goes along with the opening credits.