The Miniaturist is set in Amsterdam, 1686, where Petronella, aka Nella (Split‘s Anya Taylor-Joy) is marrying sugar trader Johannes Brandt (Alex Hassell), and feels very much a fish out of water, even though she’s quite close to the water in that city…
Not everyone’s pleased to see her, however, namely Brandt’s sister, Marin (Born To Kill‘s Romola Garai), who spends the entire drama with a frowny face, forever thinking she’ll lose him to her, as well as diverting all his attention to his new wife, starting when builds a dolls house for her, based on the one in which she’s now living, but they hire a miniaturist to provide the furnishing within. Sounds all straight-forward so far, until it seems to be predicting the future, at which point everything started going a bit weird, hence it felt not to be quite the period drama I was expecting… which is a good thing.
When there are items that are the exact same as are within her house, is it a case of art immitating life? Is there some secret CCTV? Hang on, it’s the 17th Century, so that’s crazy talk.
So, back to Brandt’s profession, and he sells sugar to people, almost door-to-door… well, he travels to other countries, so he’s like Homer Simpson branching out a bit… Now, I don’t know how rare sugar was back in the 17th Century, but I’d be a little bit suspect of this. What’s he really up to?
Now, onto some problems, and without giving any spoilers because I’m posting this after episode 1 has aired, but prior to the conclusion, we’re told the story is set in 1686, but at one point in episode two, the date of Wednesday 4th January is referred to, but that date wouldn’t be possible until 1688. The plot could take place over such a period of time, but we’re not made aware that that has actually happened.
Also, I wanted to see lots of Amsterdam, but apart from an establishing shot at the beginning, almost all scenes are set indoors, with one or two on outdoor sets… where you can’t see any actual Amsterdam. What a shame.
The miniature items are certainly incredibly impressive, but as a drama, this feels so drawn out, and when I’m watching a preview of a programme, subtitles are not available, and we have the curse of the mumblers, again.
Plus, despite the complete lack of any Dutch accents in a story set in Amsterdam where everyone has Dutch names, but English accents, there’s certainly some good performances from Anya Taylor-Joy, Alex Hassell, Romola Garai and Hayley Squires, as housemaid Cornelia, and yes, there was some weird stuff going on, but it never quite came together to lift itself above the average period drama, so the outcome wasn’t particularly satisfying.
The Miniaturist can be pre-ordered on Blu-ray and DVD ahead of its release on January 22nd, 2018. If you missed it, you can watch it on BBC iPlayer for 30 days after transmission, and click on the packshot for the full-size version.
Overall Score: 4/10
Director: Guillem Morales
Producer: Gethin Scourfield
Writers: Jessie Burton and John Brownlow
Music: Dan Jones
Petronella Brandt: Anya Taylor-Joy
Marin Brandt: Romola Garai
Cornelia: Hayley Squires
Johannes Brandt: Alex Hassell
Otto: Paapa Essiedu
Anna Oortman: Katy Carmichael
Carel Oortman: Lucas Bond
Arabella Oortman: Lara Bond
Hanna: Sally Messham
Arnoud: Caolan Byrne
The Miniaturist: Emily Berrington
Jack Philips: Ziggy Heath
Agnes Meermans: Aislin McGuckin
Frans Meermans: Geoffrey Streatfeild
Pieter Slabbaert: Ian Hogg
Pastor Pellicorne: Christopher Godwin
Wool-Dyer: Jack Brady
Chief Militia Guard: Graham Elwell
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.