In a time when our screens are often filled with the grim spectre of war, the prospect of watching a scripted drama set during World War II might not seem appealing. However, “All the Light We Cannot See,” a new four-hour Netflix miniseries based on Anthony Doerr’s beloved novel, manages to offer something different and heartening. Amidst the darkness and horror of war, the “Light” in its title is a beacon of hope.
This multi-layered tale unfolds across different time periods and perspectives, all converging toward a poignant climax. At its core are two young protagonists: Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner, a German boy skilled in radios. Werner’s journey begins as a tinkerer who becomes proficient in building and repairing radios, while Marie-Laure finds solace in radio broadcasts hosted by a mysterious ham operator known as the Professor.
Marie-Laure and Werner find inspiration and hope in these broadcasts, with their lives taking contrasting paths. She is guided by her father, Daniel, portrayed by Mark Ruffalo, as they flee Nazi-occupied Paris with invaluable museum treasures. Werner, now a teenager played by Louis Hofmann, becomes a reluctant agent for the Nazis, tasked with tracking illegal radio operators.
Their stories eventually converge in the coastal town of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s uncle Etienne, portrayed by Hugh Laurie, is part of the French resistance. Here, Werner, the conflicted Nazi operative, is dispatched to locate and silence illegal radio operators, putting Marie-Laure and her father in grave danger. The moral and emotional struggle within Werner becomes a compelling aspect of “All the Light We Cannot See,” and Laurie’s portrayal of Etienne, an agoraphobic war veteran, adds depth to the narrative. Yet it is Aria Mia Loberti’s depiction of Marie-Laure that truly shines.
What makes Loberti’s performance even more remarkable is the fact that she, like the character she portrays, is legally blind. In her first professional acting role, Loberti carries the weight of the leading role with remarkable skill and confidence, a testament to her talent and potential. Co-creators Shawn Levy and Steven Knight made a remarkable discovery in casting this relative newcomer, not only finding someone who could tackle a challenging role but also introducing a promising new actor to the world.
Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See” is a literary masterpiece that weaves a tapestry of narratives against the backdrop of World War II. Through the lives of its two young protagonists, Marie-Laure and Werner, the novel explores themes of hope, love, and the indomitable human spirit in the face of darkness. Doerr’s prose is both poetic and evocative, painting vivid images of a war-torn world where the boundaries between right and wrong blur. The book’s intricate storytelling and rich character development make it a poignant exploration of the human condition. As it shifts between different time periods and perspectives, “All the Light We Cannot See” offers a profound and thought-provoking reading experience, leaving a lasting impression on its readers.
In “All the Light We Cannot See,” the juxtaposition of innocence and war, hope and despair, and the interplay of characters from different backgrounds create a narrative that is both emotionally resonant and captivating. The miniseries offers a fresh perspective on a well-trodden genre, illuminating the light that can shine even in the darkest of times. As viewers embark on this cinematic journey, they will be drawn into a world that vividly portrays the enduring strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.