CREATED BY: Jack Thorne
STARRING: André Holland, Joanna Kulig, Amandla Stenberg, Tahar Rahim, Leïla Bekhti, Melissa George, Randy Kerber, Ludovic Louis, Damian Nueva Cortes, Lada Obradovic, Jowee Omicil, Adil Dehbi, Alexis Manenti, Benjamin Biolay, Léonie Simaga and Dhafer L’Abidine
The Eddy is a Netflix limited series that’s created by screenwriter Jack Thorne, mostly known for his work on the This Is England television series (’86, ’88 & ’90) and most recently His Dark Materials. The limited series focuses on The Eddy, a jazz club set in a suburb of Paris, owned by a once-famous American jazz pianist Elliot Udo whose moved from New York after his young son’s death. He co-owns the club with his best friend Farid, who personality and optimism is in stark contrast to the withdrawn and wounded Elliot. With the club struggling and the band that Elliot manages at the club also trying to find their rhythm, an event further complicates Elliot’s handling of The Eddy and to add further complications, his daughter arrives Julie from New York after a scandal with her stepfather. Will the pressures of his personal and professional life destroy The Eddy or thrive?
Other than knowing that the first few episodes of The Eddy were directed by Oscar winner Damien Chazelle (who also executive produces the series) and only seeing the teaser trailer in the marketing campaign, I wasn’t entirely sure on what to expect from the series.
The Eddy creates an atmosphere that immerses you into the story with the meticulous direction of Damien Chazelle in the opening two episodes of the series. His style of direction is energetic and frantic as we weave through the club to the sounds of the band playing, whilst Elliot frantically tries to uncover the truth behind the events of the end of the first episode, all the while making the club and the band he manages a success. Each episode is mainly dedicated to one particular character and we get to learn of their daily struggles whilst we also follow the main story with Elliot and sometimes makes a character all the more interesting for it that we can potentially connect with on a emotional level. What I enjoyed the most from the series is the father and daughter relationship between Elliot and Julie. It’s damaged as both of them are left fragile from their past experiences and their hurt puts them in a battle of wills in the early stages of the series that eventually leads to accountability and understanding between them that feels earned and rewarding. André Holland is fantastic as Elliot Udo, an incredibly flawed individual whose life is that much of a whirlwind and that withdrawn from everyone that he cannot see the people that are struggling around him, from his own daughter, to band singer and on/off lover Maja and the band members themselves. It’s a deeply layered performance from Holland and there’s one particular scene featuring Holland in the finale that almost broke my heart. Another person who impressed me was Amandla Stenberg as Elliot’s daughter Julie, who may initially irritate people as a character especially in her dedicated episode which is episode two (particularly in a scene in which she’s shouting that she’s looking for cocaine), but she portrays such a vulnerable character that feels neglected and rejected by not only her mother, but her father and you feel for her as a result. Her story-arc involving Sim (portrayed really well by Adil Dehbi) is also one of the strengths of the series. There’s other notable performances amongst the cast, from Joanna Kulig as Maja, the lead singer of the band and Leïla Bekhti as Farid’s wife Amira. The story however remains connected to the music and the band sessions captured here are well executed.
The issue with The Eddy is that some people viewers might find it to be slow…painfully slow. I’m not going to lie either, I was really struggling with the first half of the series as the supporting characters weren’t engaging, the episodes just lacked that kinetic energy from Chazelle’s direction (which is no disrespect to the other directors, Houda Benyamina, Laïla Marrakchi and Alan Poul, who directed two episodes each, but you felt the spark missing) and there’s a major storyline that felt like it hampered the overall experience of the series rather than elevate it. What I’m talking about is the criminal subplot that feels shoehorned in, makes characters make some frustrating decisions and overall it feels more like a distraction than being engaging or riveting. What’s worse is that this element of the plot looks set to continue, if the series conclusion is to be believed and if (or when) Netflix decides to renew the series. Also if you’re not a major fan of jazz, I’m not particularly sure if this would interest you as the music numbers from the band do go on for quite a bit and with the episodes having a lengthy runtime, I’m sure you can attempt one episode to see if it is for you. As frustrating as I found the first half of the series to be, I’m glad that I saw it through to the end.
The Eddy has all the ingredients to be a great series, with some great performances from André Holland, Joanna Kulig, Amandla Stenberg, Leïla Bekhti and Adil Dehbi, but for me it just fell short of that due to some uninteresting characters and distracting storylines.