Updated: Aug 28, 2019
This week on the Lifestyle Blog, let's talk about the latest addictive offering from Netflix. Unless you've been living under a bush you can't have missed hearing about the streaming sensation Russian Doll.
In a nutshell it's a kind of Groundhog Day/Happy Death Day for 2019 except, despite having some real comedic moments there is also a much deeper, underlying message at work here. Clever dialogue, witty exchanges, incredibly profound moments of self-realisation together with a moody soundtrack, have made this, in my opinion one of the most outstanding offerings from Netflix this year (so far).
So what's with the name? You could be forgiven for thinking this was going to be some sexy espionage thriller i.e"Red Sparrow' but you couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, our heroine is attractive, highly intelligent, definitely sexy but certainly no spy or 'doll!'
The central character is a woman named Nadia (Natasha Lyonne), a wise-cracking, chain-smoking, party-loving, tough talking video game developer with avoidance and commitment issues who is horribly killed on her 36th birthday while chasing her runaway cat (yes, really) and from that moment she is forced to continually re-live that day and die (albeit via different means each time) again and again!
On each new day she is forced to look at the events that led to that moment and as she dissects and re-examines her actions, she meets the unstable and suicidal Alan (Charlie Barnett) who, we discover is also stuck in his own Groundhog Nightmare. The pair very quickly realise that finding each other is no coincidence and from then on develop a close bond as they decide to join forces to find a way out of their loop.
Now, here's where things get odd...('even odder???' I hear you say)
Forced to face their demons, Alan, it quickly emerges, is a recently jilted, suicidal obsessive compulsive (keep up!) who died on the night his long-term girlfriend revealed she was cheating and ended their relationship.
Nadia, we notice, has her own problems, a commitment phobe with attachment issues, she is forced to face her traumatic upbringing and her toxic relationship with her now deceased mother. As her relationship with Alan develops Nadia discovers that she has some influence over her new friend's destiny and touchingly and sometimes hilariously tries to change the course of events that led to his death. In return he helps Nadia to face her own guilt about the perceived abandonment of her mother and her mother's subsequent early death. As Alan learns to accept that the demise of his relationship isn't his failure, Nadia learns that her own version of childhood events that shaped her adult personality were not necessarily the only truth and that confusion caused by trauma is something that is often underestimated and therefore the path to recovery shouldn't be taken alone.
The profound bit: 'What's it really about then??'
Well, that's something that many viewers and critics are still debating, but so far the general consensus is something like this:
As Nadia attempts to help Alan and herself with the help of her therapist/ surrogate mother Ruth, 'Russian Doll' we soon discover is a metaphor for the discovery of self through therapy i.e. as the doll opens it reveals another inside it, and so it is with the process of therapy, each discovery about oneself leads to a search for the root cause which is generally considered to be an event in the past of the younger self ( represented by the smaller doll.) Masks and mirrors are also re-occurring themes and suggest that Russian Doll is fundamentally about identity and the masks we wear to protect/prevent ourselves from acknowledging or recognising certain truths that are forgotten or concealed deep within.
The first time I attempted to watch Russian Doll, I switched it off after 20 minutes (Ooops!) I'd heard all the reviews and expected it to grab me straightaway, I confess it really didn't.
A week later, reluctantly at first, I tried again, and this time with some determination, gave it my full attention. I am so glad I did. After the first episode I was absolutely hooked! You see, the thing about the plot of this series is, that like the actual Russian Doll itself, it is deceptive...you never know what will be revealed as it opens up. Despite all the complexities and twists, it is so worth staying the course for those moments that will have you in hysterics, those that will touch you and indeed, brilliant timing and delivery of lines that will resonate and stay with you for a long time to come.