Netflix has delivered time and time again with hits like “Stranger Things”, “Maniac”, and “Narcos”. “Russian Doll” adds to this ever growing list with its smart look into trauma, metal health, and purpose. Its concept is a familiar one. Due to the shows use of the groundhog day gimmick, reliving the same day over and over, some might groan and skip this, expecting it to be retreading old ground.
But what sets apart “Russian Doll” from the rest of the pack is the acting, themes tackled, and especially the writing. Be it interactions between characters or the characters themselves, the show is remains incredibly riveting.
One of the shows biggest assets is main actress Natasha Lyonne. She brings an energy to the how that keeps things light, yet still serious. While her character, Nadia, can be annoying at first, she becomes more and more relatable throughout the series. In addition to the acting, Lyonne adds some incredible talent to the writing and directing resources available to the show. The other lead, Charlie Barnett, does a very nice job portraying someone in a mental health crisis. His acting provides a nice counter to Lyonne’s chaotic Nadia. Dealing with the same problem Nadia has, Alan teams up with her to solve it before time runs out for them both.
In more technical aspects, the show is fairly well made. The cinematography, while not earth shatteringly well done, does have a few stand out moments. The settings are well created too. For example, the central bathroom Nadia constantly visits is very interestingly designed. The backdrop of New York City also helps convey a hectic and cluttered tone that other cities might not have been able to create. The direction is done well, for the most part. Many scenes remain memorable, but it was more for the acting and writing than anything else.
The themes delved into in this show sound like nothing new, because they really aren’t. Many forms of art tackle things like mental health, trauma, and existentialism all the time. The difference “Russian Doll” makes is the way they tackle it. The characters don’t set out with a goal of finding themselves or fixing their problems. In actuality, they do the opposite, avoiding anything like that, focusing on fixing the current situation. This resistance to change is the shows greatest aspect, as it relates to humanity as a whole.
Most people have things deep down that they won’t discuss or even try to fix, despite knowing that things would get better. Instead, they use different outlets like partying, drugs, or even watching TV shows for unhealthy amounts of time. The point of the show is to fix yourself, and most of the time that means talking about it with other people.
Feature photo courtesy of the Associated Press.