All the Light We Cannot See is a new Netflix 4-part mini series, based on the novel by Anthony Doerr, beginning in St Malo, Nazi-Occupied France, in August 1944. The US Army Air Forces, 565th Bomb Squadron are on their way to root out the enemy, but that makes it no picnic for the inhabitants, including a young blind woman, Marie-Laure Blanc (Aria Mia Loberti), who is trying to broadcast to her father, but since she has a potentially large audience, she starts the world’s first podcast by reading out Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea to them all.
Over in the Hotel of Bees, German Radio Surveillance Headquarters, young German soldier Werner (Louis Hofmann – The White Crow)- who’s very much against what Hitler et al have created – is listening, but gets interrupted by a fellow soldier who offers him a drink, explaining that listening to the radio is punishable by death, but then he expects to die as they’re soon to be bombed out of existence by the Americans.
Meanwhile, Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel (Lars Eidinger – Proxima, Personal Shopper), a jeweller by day, is in town, looking for Marie and wanting her address, but this also goes back to earlier times, first in 1934, when Marie is a young girl, and her father, Daniel (Mark Ruffalo – The Adam Project), is building a model village for her, so she knows her way around; then to 1940, where a younger Werner is making an impression on another Nazi officer, Siedler (Ed Skrein – Midway).
Additionally in 1934, there’s a man who broadcasts on the radio, simply known as The Professor, explaining darkness and light, stating that the most important light is the light you cannot see. Hence, the clunky plot exposition for the title.
All the while, the dialogue is in English, but not with too bad a French or German accent. So, it’s not exactly ‘Allo ‘Allo. That said, when Hugh Laurie (Roadkill) pops up with a huge beard in the first episode as Marie’s uncle, Etienne, he does look like he’s just stepped out of a Fry & Laurie sketch.
Amongst all this, there’s a particular diamond everyone’s after, which Marie and her father had, known as The Sea of Flames, which can apparently cure any illness. Well, almost 80 years later, and we can see it clearly hasn’t cured the Tories from being complete [redacted].
Overall, the 1944 content is engaging, but 1934, less so, while 1940 is fine. the first couple of episodes rather drag on and feel drawn out, but stick with it, as the other two are considerably better. However, as for the plot, it does feel quite predictable at times.
Still, acting-wise, Aria Mia Loberti is great as Marie, as is Louis Hofmann as Werner, but it’s also amusing to see Lars Eidinger as the persistent Nazi, playing the role as if he’s channelling Gary Oldman.
Thanks to our friends at Netflix for the screener prior to release.
All The Light We Cannot See is not available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD, but is on Netflix from tomorrow.
Running time: 50-70 minutes (4 episodes)
Release date: November 2nd 2023
Director: Shawn Levy
Producers: Rand Geiger, Josh McLaglen, Mary McLaglen
Novel: Anthony Doerr
Screenplay: Steven Knight
Music: James Newton Howard
Marie-Laure Blanc: Aria Mia Loberti
Werner: Louis Hofmann
Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel: Lars Eidinger
Etienne LeBlanc: Hugh Laurie
Daniel LeBlanc: Mark Ruffalo
Captain Mueller: Jakob Diehl
Herr Siedler: Ed Skrein
Monsieur Caron: James Dryden
Frank Volkheimer: Corin Silva
Madame Manec: Marion Bailey
Jutta: Luna Wedler
Young Marie-Laure: Nell Sutton
Young Werner: Lucas Herzog
Sandrina: Andrea Deck
Frau Elena: Rosie Hilal
Bastian: Bernd Halscher
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.