Alias Grace – Review

Alias Grace is available on Netflix starting November 3rd.

Alias Grace is a six part series based on the novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood. As opposed to the future looking Atwood acclaimed Hulu show, The Handmaid’s Tale, this is a historical period piece. A true-crime mystery, it opens in 1859, in Victorian Canada, where Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), a household servant, has been imprisoned for the 1843 murder of a farmer (Paul Gross) and his housekeeper (Anna Paquin). The actual killer, a stable hand (Kerr Logan) accuses her of manipulating him and masterminding the crime. An American doctor,Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft), has been summoned to evaluate Grace and hopefully save her. The story is told in a combination of scenes in 1859 where Jordan is interviewing Grace and flashbacks where Grace tells her life story.

Much like the way The Handmaid’s Tale is told through the inner dialogue of the main character, Offred, this story unfolds through Grace’s thoughts and her choice of how to tell her story to Jordan. Which details to reveal, which words to select; each word is laden with a lot of importance as Grace is being judged only on what she says. Gadon does an excellent job of portraying a woman whose fate has always been in someone else’s hands: her father, her employer, the judge and now Jordan. She lets the viewer in just enough while still remaining a bit of an enigma, as a mystery requires. She is an empathetic character while still creating an aura of doubt about her situation, making the audience interested in following the series to learn her fate. However, the deeper we get into Grace’s life, the less the ultimate decision matters. Like Jordan, we are mesmerized by her, her mannerisms and facial expressions, and of course, her story.

Atwood has crafted a tale of a not-that-far-away time when circumstances for women were unimaginably dire. Treated as property, with no rights, a poor woman had no prospects. Society then was not all that different than the dystopian Gilead. Alias Grace is meant to be a disturbing tale on many levels and it achieves it’s goal.

I give Alias Grace an A.