Film & TV

The Sinner is a gripping and timely ‘whydunnit’

After watching Mindhunter, we started getting recommendations for The Sinner, a ‘whydunnit’ murder mystery thriller on Netflix. Given that we weren’t able to make it to the cinema this week because of gigs, birthdays, steak, and other assorted awesomeness, this week’s Spoiler Alert is another slice of on-demand TV…

…and you should probably watch it. Because it’s good. Really good!

The series begins with a brutal murder. Young mother Cora (Jessica Biel) is out at the beach with her husband and their son. It’s clear she’s a little preoccupied, that she has something on her mind. She is distant, a little spaced-out it would seem. And that all rather comes to  ahead when she jumps up and brutally murders the man on the next blanket, stabbing him multiple times in the neck and upper chest. She’s killed someone. She knows she has. There are a whole bunch of witnesses.

The question that dominates this 8-episode series is why?

I loved The Sinner. It’s a twisting tale of horrific abuse and the lengths people will go to to cover up bad things. It seems like an incredibly timely show. With the entertainment industry and beyond reeling from shocking allegations and tales of abuse, a story in which a woman struggles to piece together the narrative behind a seemingly inexplicable violent trigger with tragic consequences is that much more gripping. At a time when more and more brave victims are coming forward, often to cries of doubt, The Sinner feels rather vital. As well as the physical scars that Cora bears, it’s the psychological trauma that proves most tragic – not just the amnesia that gives the series its narrative conceit, but the blame she bestows on herself, the manner by which she feels crushing guilt but also a sense of detachment, her relationship with her incredibly religious mother and her terminally ill sister.

As Bill Pullman’s Detective Ambrose leads Cora back to the places she recalls only fleetingly, it’s hard to watch her emotional response as flashes of memory are retriggered. Biel does a phenomenal job, and it’s striking that a series about some rather ugly human behaviour is shot with such serene style and beauty at times.

I hope that it’s a one-and-done kind of show. A slightly shortened series, clocking in at only eight episodes, this helps keep the pacing tight, and the story utterly immersive. Not everything needs a second season *cough* True Detective. It’s tempting to want more, but The Sinner is so brilliantly told a such a perfect length. One of the best things I’ve seen all year.

Have you seen The Sinner? What did you make of it? Let us know your thoughts (on the film, the video itself, the new style, the weather etc.) in the comments, leave a Like on the video if you enjoyed it, and don’t forget to subscribe! There’ll be more Spoiler Alert every Sunday!