SHINING GIRLS, On the trail of an elusive serial killer

What is happening? And why is this happening to me?

shiny girls
Now streaming on Apple TV+.

My spooky alarm went off the moment Jamie Bell approached a little girl playing on a front porch in 1964.

From one performance to the next, Jamie Bell disappears into the characters he plays, making it pitifully easy to believe he’s a malevolent creature, an anonymous stranger in a friendly talking Chicago neighborhood. gently. Each of his words carries an implicit threat.

From the cautious face of the little girl, we review the friendly face of Elisabeth Moss, who looks like the little girl, but has grown up and still lives in Chicago, a few years later. The first whiff of relief — oh, well, the little girl survived her frightening encounter! — slowly turns into an ominous realization that something evil happened to the little girl; we just don’t know what.

Kirby is indeed a survivor. She works discreetly in the archives of a daily newspaper, yet she has given her leave and has decided to move away to start over. She lives with her rocker mother (Amy Breneman) in a modest apartment in a working-class neighborhood and is extremely cautious.

Before she can leave, however, a corpse and a reporter (Wagner Moura) put her back on the trail of the incredibly evil man who tried to take her life. She’s convinced she’s the only one who can stop him, for reasons that only gradually come to light as the series escalates steadily throughout its first three episodes and rarely lets up. the following.

Rather, the series becomes more complex as it develops, revealing additional layers to Kirby’s story, as well as Dan, the reporter, whose life has been damaged by his alcoholism. Dan may be a recovering alcoholic, but his tendency to become obsessed with storytelling begins to endanger his son in his early teens. And always, always, always, the shadowy figure Harper (Jamie Bell) manages to appear nearby, though how and why remains a mystery until later episodes begin to pierce her face.

Created by Silka Luisa, who wrote the first episode and co-wrote others, the series is based on a novel by Lauren Beukes, first published in 2013. Luisa, who was previously a consulting producer on the fascinating mystery drama strange angelfocuses on Kirby, rather than Harper, which makes all the difference in the world, opening up the narrative while keeping the best ideas from the novel.

Elisabeth Moss directs one of the final episodes, but the first two are directed by Michelle McLaren, with Daina Reid directing multiple episodes. McLaren’s work here is reminiscent of the exceptional work it has done in episodic television in the past, particularly breaking BadHeat the kettle to boiling then simmer.

Reid has directed a wide variety of narrative shows over the past 20 years, but perhaps the most notable and/or most applicable are the four she directed for The Handmaid’s Tale. His strengths mesh well with Moss’ performance, which throws the show off balance and showcases Moss’ ferocious strength, even as his character faces some surprising twists and twists.

The series also benefits from Philippa Soo as an astronomer, Chris Chalk as a press photographer and Christopher Denham as an even more mysterious character. They revolve around the magnetic team of Elisabeth Moss and Wagner Moura, who absolutely nail complicated characters who act like you or I might act if we had an existential crisis that could kill us.

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