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The student news site of St. Louis Park High School

The Echo

The student news site of St. Louis Park High School

The Echo

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The promising premiere of ‘All The Light We Cannot See’

The series is a diamond in the rough
Fair use from Netflix

When faced with a bookshelf or a selection of films, I always chose the historical drama. In consequence, throughout my life, I have come across the novel “All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr. I had convinced myself I would not enjoy it and, though it was acclaimed and an infamous read, let it remain on the bookshelf, choosing the latest novel by Ruta Sepetys or Monica Hesse instead. However, when I saw that Netflix was releasing a series based on the novel, I was interested and decided to give the story I had long neglected a chance. Upon watching the series, I instantly fell in love with the narrative. So much so that it made me want to finally read the book.

Released on Nov. 2, the series takes place in Paris and Saint-Malo, France during the German occupation in World War II. Unknowingly bonded by a wise and reassuring radio broadcaster, called the professor, on a forbidden frequency, Marie-Laure and Werner Pfennig live through the siege and battle for Saint-Malo. Marie, a blind French girl, aids the resistance by broadcasting to the Allies and hides from the German soldiers in pursuit of her radio and her father’s diamonds. Werner, a radio prodigy and German soldier, is haunted by his past and vows to protect the girl he hears broadcasting at night. Encompassing life before and during the war, the differing narratives intersect to find hope in the darkness.

Many critics are said to have disliked the film, claiming it has little historical accuracy and does not reflect the novel well. Again, I have not read the book, and being a person with little knowledge of Saint-Malo’s history requires me to judge the film independently. I did not find the film awful, but I believe that it could have been done more sensitively.

The series was successful in not hiding the realities of war. It showed the battles differing perspectives had been challenged with and the sacrifices made. When it needed to be, the film was bloody and gruesome; it was not graphic, but it did not shy away from torture, resistance fighting, bombings and murder. Because it showed this intensity, the series could be described as a thriller and was filled with suspense. Three of the four episodes ended on cliffhangers, which made me want to finish the entire film in one sitting. I was often in anticipation and stirred, watching as Marie escaped the German in pursuit of a diamond, Germans hunted for radio broadcasters and the resistance engaged in violent combat.

Despite the thrill, however, I found myself being caught between the present and the past. Though many of the flashbacks were important to the story, I felt that some of them were misplaced or were longer than they should have been, disrupting the continuity of the story. It was not hard to follow, but I found it difficult to enjoy a period of the film when it would be interrupted to show the past.

Still, the concept of the story and the plot of the film were appealing to me, and I thought the soundtrack to be beautiful and haunting. The musicality accompanied the scenes perfectly. The film itself is promising, and I bet the novel gives what the film is lacking. Though the intersection of unique narratives and the combat scenes were entertaining, I thought the story was not realistic and lacked historical depth. I knew this when I watched Marie and Warner meet and, in the first hour, despite presumably being on opposing sides of the war and not knowing each other beforehand, kiss.

I enjoyed a majority of the film. The main characters set the tone and framework for the story, allowing other narratives to be intricately intertwined with their own. The conceptual design of the storylines was done well, as the narratives were attentively developed and displayed through the suspenseful writing and detailed histories. However, the story’s focus is lacking. It almost seems to dance around the theme of love and hope being triumphant and above evil, distracting from it with a rushed story. I believe the film just skims the surface of what the story could be.

Despite these grievances, most of the performances from the actors and actresses were incredible and had exceeded my expectations. Aria Mia Loberti, a blind American actress, played Marie-Laure. This being her film debut and first professional role, her performance was great. She was likeable and conveyed her character’s intelligent manner and wit well, but her emotional deliverance was often lacking. I had never seen or heard of Louis Hofmann before this film, but his performance blew me away. Being Werner, his character was in scenes which required emotional depth and dramatic portrayals. His acting made me feel as though there was something within his character and beyond the screen I could not understand. I loved it.

In all, if you are wanting to watch a film for pure enjoyment and not be analytical, I believe this series is a suspenseful and touching drama that can be loved for its emotional depth and historic themes. Immersed in the story and invested in the characters, viewers will be hoping for lives to be saved, the resistance to be triumphant and the Allies to invade. There is something to be learned from finding light in the darkest of places, as well. That is why “All The Light We Cannot See” is truly a diamond in the rough.

“All The Light We Cannot See”: ★★★★☆

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About the Contributor
Anna Williams, Echo Staffer
Hey! My name is Anna, and I am a junior. When I am not writing for Echo, you will find me on the field or in the gym, as I play soccer for the high school and coach pre-school gymnastics classes. I love walking around Lake Harriet, traveling, and attending Youth Group with my younger sister. This is my second year writing for Echo, and I am so excited!

Comments (1)

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  • G

    Gayle GoldNov 17, 2023 at 4:36 am

    I loved this series.
    Extremely touching. I love that the
    Main theme of it is about Hope.
    Very refreshing.