OBSESSION, or an erotic thriller with zero libido from Netflix [REVIEW]

“Obsession” is built on the almost archetypal motif of erotic fascination between an older man and a young woman.

Tomasz Raczkowski

21 April 2023

There is a rule of “sex sells” in the advertising industry. It has been known and used for years by producers of various products and services, including the film industry. Drama, thriller or any other genre is often easier to sell if the film is seasoned with the so-called. with scenes of sex and nudity. This is probably the mechanism behind both the motivation of Netflix producers to create Obsession, and the quite high popularity that the British miniseries, introduced as an erotic thriller, ensured for itself in the website’s algorithms. Such a label can hide very good productions – let’s just say Basic Instinct or Eyes Wide Shut – but in this case there is definitely no artistic fulfillment.

Obsession is written by Morgan Lloyd Malcom and Beni Walters and directed by Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D’Sa (don’t worry about those names) a four-episode adaptation of Josephine Hart Scar’s book. The novel had previously been adapted for the screen by Louis Malle, starring Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche. This time the cast is more “budget” – the main role is played by Richard Armitage, known primarily from The Hobbit trilogy, and he is accompanied by Charlie Murphy (Peaky Blinders) and Indira Varma (Game of Thrones). This is not necessarily a complaint, actors and actresses from the so-called the second or third row can often use their chances to the fore and present electrifying creations. But this is not the case. And this, and not any other casting, only increases the impression of cheapness emanating from the entire production – not necessarily financial, but mainly qualitative.

Obsession is built on the almost archetypal theme of erotic fascination between an older man and a young woman. The former, played by Armitage, William Farrow, is a successful London surgeon who also makes some steps on the political scene. The latter is played by Murphy Anna Barton, thirty-something fiancĂ©e of Jay, William’s son. Sparks immediately fly between William and Anna (or at least that’s what the script tells us to believe, because it’s not really visible on the screen) and without unnecessary stalking they start an affair, secret for obvious reasons and covered with several layers of taboo. And that’s how it is in this British society, one would like to say – because there’s not much else to say. Starting from this point, Obsession wanders from one dialogue scene in a smaller or larger group, and from one tryst scene to the next. In both layers, the series is equally tedious.

I don’t know how far Armitage’s apathetic game was the intention of the developers, but even if it was, it was a misguided idea. The otherwise rather talented Briton gives the impression that he has to stand in front of the camera as a punishment, completely massacring any seeds of life energy in his character. In fact, I don’t know if it’s worse when he plays a sedate successful man – against which a dummy with an empty face has more expression – or a lover fascinated by the body of his younger partner, which looks more or less as if the artificial intelligence avatar plays a desire script (although no, Domhnall Gleeson as the robot in Black Mirror had more emotion). Charlie Murphy isn’t much better, with a range of seductive gestures that seem to have been taken straight from a dusty newspaper in a dentist’s waiting room, and supposedly sensual gazing at the protagonist.

The chemistry between the two is non-existent, which puts the whole idea of the plot at the heart of the story (for pity I will not mention the bizarre scene of the first meeting of the lovers, during which erotic tension is connected between them) and translates into the complete futility of the four-episode story. The problem is not even that I do not believe in the authenticity of even the smallest gesture. What’s worse is that the story played out like this doesn’t interest me at all. The erotic scenes don’t save the obsession either. Without the proper psychological drama, they lack the proper fuel, and in terms of production they are outdone by half of the bed scenes from the cable TV of the 1990s. The creators of the Netflix series in the close-up sequences of William and Anna show ingenuity worthy of Fifty Shades of Grey, creating strained, completely flat and uninteresting moments, which have nothing to do with eroticism. I don’t know who can be excited about what happens between the characters of Obsession. And honestly, I don’t want to know.

Even if there are some layers of interesting psychological themes in the plot of Obsession, they are very effectively suppressed by bland and lopsided performance. The intrigue develops in a very predictable way and lacks nerve, the script seems to be written on the knee, and the conclusions are disappointing. There is not an ounce of film quality here (even the photos are sterilely stylish, devoid of visual charm) and if it wasn’t for the review, I probably wouldn’t even start the second episode. Unfortunately, this is another streaming intermediate, more imitating film work than offering entertainment of any kind. I would even feel sorry for the funds and time wasted on the production of this series, but Obsession can’t get even such an emotion out of me.

Tomasz Raczkowski

Tomasz Raczkowski

Anthropologist, critic, enthusiast of social cinema, British humor and horror films.

See other posts from this author >>>