Netflix UK TV review: Behind Her Eyes
James R | On 21, Feb 2021
Psychological thrillers come in three different sizes: the steamy, the scary and the stupefyingly silly. Behind Her Eyes, Netflix’s latest pot-boiling box set is all three, with an emphasis on the latter.
Based on Sarah Pinborough’s 2017 novel, it’s a twisting, twisted love triangle, which is based around one simple faux pas: young secretary Louise (Simona Brown) meets a married guy in a bar one night and, after some flirting, they share a drunken kiss. The next day, in walks her new boss, Dr David Ferguson (Tom Bateman), who has just moved to town with his wife and turns out to be one and the same man. Things get more awkward when Louise crosses paths with said spouse, Adele (Eve Hewson), and, out of a sense of shame and obligation, agrees to be her friend.
What ensues is an intriguing exploration of fidelity, loyalty and moral dilemmas, but one that spends most of its six episodes trying to be as boringly orthodox as possible. That means motifs of obsession and deception, which gradually morph into questions of abuse and control; David’s behaviour soon becomes suspicious, and not just because he’s broodingly controlling or because Adele seems oddly withdrawn.
All of this is territory that’s been trodden countless times before in ITV and BBC dramas, and it’s woven with flashbacks and overly portentous night terrors that feel far too familiar; the slow-paced tiptoe towards the plot’s more volatile curves results in everything becoming too repetitive to entertain. Copious bedroom scenes fail to spark excitement, scenes involving Adele at a rehab institute with the sinister Rob (Robert Aramayo) come across as contrived, and the occasional eerie talk of lucid dreams doesn’t help matters.
Whether all this generic storytelling is designed to serve as misdirection or not, the question any psychological thriller has to answer is that of plausibility; at the simplest level, can you be easily convinced by watching someone pretend to be someone else?
It’s here that Behind Her Eyes struggles. Despite the game cast, there’s no getting round the fact that the increasingly melodramatic narrative is laughable rather than shocking, no matter how much the drama tries to juxtapose its loud heights with the lows of convention. Eve Hewson is excellent at playing Adele as a needy, troubled waif or smouldering enigma, while Tom Bateman does his best to deliver stilted dialogue with a heavy Scottish accent. Simona Brown, though, is the show’s real star, serving up an intense, layered performance that’s committed right until the end credits, but even she can’t make reaching the finish line as fun as it should be – instead you’re left dreaming of a different series that gave her better material to work with.
Behind Her Eyes is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.