Big Little Lies was a huge surprise HBO hit of 2017, and one of the best TV shows of the last year.
Marketed as a show about women for women, its dark and gritty storyline was a big surprise for viewers, and it left them hanging on for more.
Based on the best-seller by Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies follows the lives of three mothers in the small beachside community of Monterey, an idyllic upper-middle class haven of perfection, in the build up to a mysterious murder.
With a stellar cast including Reese Witherspoon (who also executive produced the show), Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Alexander Skarsgard, Adam Scott, and Zoe Kravitz, Big Little Lies is a mini-series masterpiece.
It uses the flashback model to tell the story of how someone in the community came to be murdered. We don’t know who’s been murdered, or who did it, and the flashbacks feed us little bits of information throughout the show which keep us guessing until the last moments of the final episode.
The show acts as more of a character study than something more plot-driven, allowing the audience to act as detective. We’re shown all angles of the build up to the murder, from all characters involved, and also the impact of it on the children in the story.
Reese Witherspoon plays Madeline, a divorcee stay at home mum who wants nothing more than for her daughters to become successful and intelligent women. Nicole Kidman is Celeste, a retired lawyer whose relationship with her husband (Skarsgard) is skewed between his violent tendencies and their passionate sexual relationship. Finally we have Shailene Woodley as Jane, a young single mother who has recently moved to the area with her son for a fresh start. All their children attend the same school, and when an incident of alleged bullying comes to light, tensions between the affluent families begin to rise.
It’s rare for anything on screen, be it television or cinema, to come along and truly keep us guessing right until the very end. There are so many angles and motives involved in the characters which could lead them to murder that even if you think you may know who the culprit is, you’re forced to second guess yourself as new information comes to light. Lies and secrets come out in the open, and some remain on the brink, causing tension and anticipation.
All members of the cast are excellent, getting fully engrossed in their characters and playing off each other extremely well. Shailene Woodley especially stands out – arguably one of her first adult roles as an actress, she is perfect as Jane, the young mum who is new to the area, doesn’t come from money and has to find her way in this wealthy town. She is damaged and mysterious and Woodley couldn’t have done a better job.
Despite only comprising of 7 episodes, Big Little Lies is cleverly paced and doesn’t spend too long establishing the characters before jumping into the murderous themes.
We give Big Little Lies 5 stars for surprising and enthralling us, and for keeping us engaged in the newly saturated genre of crime dramas.
Big Little Lies is available to stream on Now TV and Amazon Video at time of publishing, or you can own the series on DVD here. And good news, it’s heading back to HBO for a second season, set to be directed by American Honey‘s Andrea Arnold – which we’re very excited about!