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‘All the Light We Cannot See’ Review: A Tale of Resilience and Redemption

Discover ‘All the Light We Cannot See’

Marie-Laure and Werner, destined companions who will ultimately meet in the Netflix miniseries ‘All the Light We Cannot See’, are on opposite sides of a destructive divide. She is a young French girl, decoding radio messages for Allied forces during World War II. He is a young Nazi radio technician, conscripted to locate her in his Saint-Malo garrison as bombs rain down and American soldiers draw near.

However, with the fantastic, idealistic backdrop of Anthony Doerr’s bestselling novel that the series ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ is based on, Marie-Laure and Werner share much in common. Both have faced challenges – she is blind, having spent her childhood in an orphanage, and now she thrives with resilience and extraordinary senses of touch, smell, and hearing. They both share a mentor, a reclusive broadcaster named “The Professor,” whose lessons, including “The world is full of light you cannot see,” have shaped their characters.

War-Time Epics: Melodrama and Resilience

These two parallel stories in the time of wartime offer a deluxe framework for melodrama and the triumph of the human spirit, as envisioned by Doerr and adapted for television by screenwriter Steven Knight, known for his work on “Peaky Blinders,” and directed by Shawn Levy, acclaimed for (“Night at the Museum”).

 Marie-Laure and Werner are small people with bigger issues, even when compared to the grandeur of the novel’s thematic and climatic settings.

War-Time Epics
War-Time Epics

Their tale in ‘All the Light We Cannot See’  is packed with suspense, terror, and violent conflicts, but it’s dynamic enough to include a quest for a legendary jewel, rumored to curse those who touch it. Marie-Laure has not one but two endearing father figures: her biological father, who constructs intricate models of their neighborhoods for her to memorize, and her uncle, a war veteran with haunting memories from the trenches. She is kept from leaving her home for twenty years.

Sensitively Balanced Emotional Drama

If this series ‘All the Light We Cannot See‘, seems dangerously sentimental and emotionally charged, it is, although not to a lethal extent. Melodrama is the main ingredient – mostly different types of eccentric Nazi officers swirling in the cast – and there are easy lapses in logic, but the narrative in Knight’s screenplay is generally tolerable and sensible, keeping ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ from descending into complete shamelessness. If you’re up for an emotional workout, you might not feel too bad in the morning. The production, filmed in France and Hungary, with many special effects for the wartime scenes, is easy on the eyes.

The issue isn’t the emotionalism or superficiality of the materia in ‘All the Light We Cannot See’. It’s relatively scant (for Netflix) at just four episodes, so compressing the material was a process with its sacrifices. The series prioritizes the theme encapsulated in the title – the light that resides within Marie-Laure and the other heroes of the story, a light that is said to curse those who touch it. Doerr’s heart is in the right place, and the complex novel wasn’t one that screamed to be adapted for small screen consumption.

Stellar Performances Amid an International Cast

“It’s here that when they are asked to spit and shine, the German and Austrian actors playing the prominent roles in the cast, including Louis Hofmann (from Netflix’s “Dark”) as Werner and Lars Eidinger as the melancholy officer von Rumpel in ‘All the Light We Cannot See’, are class acts. It’s odd that there are no notable French actors among the prominent roles. 

Arya Meyers Lauberti, making her film debut as Marie-Laure in ‘All the Light We Cannot See’, is likable, intelligent, and quite delicate. Mark Ruffalo, as Marie-Laure’s father in ‘All the Light We Cannot See’, is burdened with mystical spirituality and makes the character’s eccentricity his own. Hugh Laurie gave the best performance, giving Uncle Etienne in ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ an air of sadness.”

But when he and Ruffalo toast “Vive la France,” you can only say “Oh mon Dieu.”


‘All the Light We Cannot See’ on Netflix brings together the parallel lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, two individuals caught in the turmoil of World War II. Despite being on opposing sides, their shared resilience, mentor, and the quest for a legendary jewel intertwine their fates. 

The series ‘All the Light We Cannot See’, while emotionally charged and occasionally melodramatic, maintains a tolerable narrative thanks to Steven Knight’s screenplay. It offers a visually pleasing production set in France and Hungary. While some sacrifices were made in condensing the material, the core theme of inner light prevails. The cast, particularly German and Austrian actors, deliver strong performances, making it a compelling watch.

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