Intriguing British murder mystery ‘The Sister‘ plays like a typical thriller, but quickly starts to test its limits when some inexplicable elements get pulled in to make the story divert from its rather standard plot. Based on the book ‘Burial’ by Neil Cross, who also wrote the script for this adaptation, the Hulu Original mini-series has trouble staying on track, but is nonetheless and easy watch if you’re in need of a quick fix.
Almost a decade into his new and devoted married life, Nathan (Russell Tovey – ‘The Good Liar‘) is rocked to the core when Bob (Bertie Carvel – ‘Doctor Foster‘), an unwelcome face from the past, turns up on his doorstep with shocking news that triggers a series of catastrophic decisions which cleverly drive a tense and compelling narrative of psychological suspense, dread, love and possible redemption. We jump back and forth in time, from the aftermath of the disappearance of a young woman, to present time, and back to the night of that unfortunate event. It gets a bit confusing at times, but luckily good old timestamps are being used on screen to give us some guidance in what’s otherwise a narrative mess. Rather than driving up the level of suspense, it becomes exhausting after a while when we notice barely a shift in personality from these main characters, which is upsetting knowing they’ve all gone through significant life altering moments.
The main issue that ‘The Sister‘ has is its main star. Tovey, who isn’t a bad actor when cast in the right role, is not capable of carrying this emotionally driven murder mystery. The range of his acting just doesn’t go broad enough to come across believable and most of the time he phones it in with a one note facial expression and fake crying that at first seems played off as a character trait of Nathan, but as the series progresses, it becomes clear Tovey himself just can’t bring himself to dig deeper into his troubling character and falls terribly flat. Luckily the supporting cast is there to distract us, and it’s especially Amrita Acharia, who plays Nathan’s wife, Nina Toussaint-White as the detective and family friend, and Simone Ashley as “The Sister” herself, who give searing performances that are compelling and admirable.
When ‘The Sister‘ suddenly tries to implement some sort of out-of-this-world element, it’s up to the viewer to decide if this is something that’ll pull them in deeper or drive them away. For me it was the former, but after finishing the four part mini-series, I can’t help but feel tricked into something that was unfinished and used as a gimmick to disguise what was rather simple to begin with. It doesn’t change the fact that by doing so, some key elements in the story don’t add up and are never given a proper explanation to tie those loose ends.
‘The Sister‘ is an atmospheric mishmash of ideas that never comes to a satisfying conclusion. The underdeveloped subplot and motivations get watered down by a lackluster lead performance, while the rest of the cast tries their best to save this project from omnishambles. An exciting premise with no distinct personality.
‘The Sister’ premieres Friday 22 January, only on Hulu.
Hulu Review – ‘The Sister’
Reviewed online (screener provided by Hulu), January 17, 2021. Rating: TBC. Running time: 4 x 46 min.
PRODUCTION: A Hulu release of a Fremantle, Euston Films production. Executive producers: Kate Harwood, Neomi Spanos.
CREW: Director: Niall MacCormick. Screenplay: Neil Cross. Cinematography: Ben Wheeler. Score: Ruth Barrett.
CAST: Russell Tovey, Bertie Carvel, Amrita Acharia, Nina Toussaint-White, Paul Bazely, Amanda Root, Simone Ashley.