All the Light We Cannot See
TELEVISION | Intense, well-acted WWII drama leaves out too much of its source material
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Netflix’s All the Light We Cannot See is a four-part series based on Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel set during World War II. The first two episodes follow the book pretty closely. But the last two prove that the book was much more compelling.
The miniseries tells the story of two young protagonists. Werner Pfennig (Louis Hofmann) is a German with an aptitude for building radios. In school he learns to live and breathe for the Fatherland. Over in France, blind Marie-Laure (Aria Mia Loberti) discovers the world through her ears and fingers.
When Paris falls, Marie and her father (Mark Ruffalo) flee to St-Malo, bringing a priceless jewel called the Sea of Flames. German Sgt. Maj. von Rumpel follows them, determined to get his hands on the jewel. The adaptation captures the intensity of the overall narrative, but tension remains at a boiling point for too long. It’s a high-stakes story, but the strong language from several characters still doesn’t feel consistent with the setting.
Doerr’s story faintly echoes the themes from John 1: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” The book relies on flashbacks, and it makes sense that some sections didn’t make it to the screen. But director Shawn Levy glosses over important events and leaves out many reflective moments.
As a stand-alone story about sticking it to the Nazis, the miniseries isn’t bad, thanks to a sweeping musical score and fine performances from Ruffalo and Loberti. As a timeless portrayal of hope in a time of confusion, Netflix’s All the Light We Cannot See leaves much to be desired.