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Review: Big Little Lies

Success for this series was an open goal. The pedigree of the talent behind this series is incredible; every episode is directed by Oscar nominee Jean-Marc Vallée (Best Editing for Dallas Buyers Club), written by Ally McBeal creator David E. Kelley and stars Hollywood legends Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern. It also stars brilliant up-and-coming actresses Shailene Woodley and Zoe Kravitz. How could it fail? In my opinion, it didn’t fail at all. It’s my favourite series of the year so far.

The programme follows the lives of several mothers and how they intersect to the point of murder. I won’t say much more than that because really, that’s all you need to know.

All across the board the performances are excellent. Witherspoon is a hoot as the feisty, outspoken Madeline, Kidman is heartbreaking as the tragic, quiet Celeste and Woodley is complex and fearsome as Jane. These three actresses are the backbone for the series and are unequivocally magnificent. It’s fair to say that come awards season, I’m fairly certain that the actress categories will be filled with the actresses from this series. Laura Dern is brilliant as always but doesn’t have the same amount of screen time as the main three.

The thing that hooked me most about the first episode of the programme is the fact that neither the name of the murder victim or perpetrator is revealed. It isn’t revealed until very late on and means that the rest of the series leaves you speculating and theorising. However, after a while, you become so engrossed in the lives of the characters, that the murder shrinks into the background. I guessed early on who the victim was and why, but I don’t think that matters because the journey is so much more important than the destination.

The writing and direction in this series works together perfectly. Each character is given their time to shine and has fully rounded moments of humour, tragedy and darkness. This means that the characters feel alive, and crucially lets you see them rather than the famous actresses playing them.

The series contains a brilliant blend of both darkly funny and truly frightening scenes. Kidman’s storyline is harrowing and disturbing while Witherspoon and Dern’s rivalry brings chuckles and gasps in equal measure.

I can’t really fault this series. It’s superb and has made me re-evaluate my opinions on certain actors – who knew Alexander Skarsgard was a good actor?! It has so much going for it that it could never really fail. The source material it is based on (Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty) is hugely popular, and this is one of the best TV casts ever assembled.

It’s also a fantastic show about women. The characters in the programme are given a lot of humanity and complexity and it’s refreshing to watch something where you feel like the characters have a sense of human decency.

Overall this is one of the most entertaining TV shows of the year, and will take a lot to beat. However, if Twin Peaks and Fargo live up to the hype, they will give this a run for its money!

Big Little Lies Season 1 is out on Blu Ray and DVD now. Image source: HBO.com