‘Behind Her Eyes’ Review: A Sex Thriller That is Neither Sexy Nor Thrilling

Audrey Fox reviews Behind Her Eyes, the latest TV series created by Steve Lightfoot. Unfortunately, this supposedly steamy exploration of a torrid affair is filled with too many lulls.
User Rating: 5

Once upon a time, erotic thrillers like this were a lot more commonplace, and in some ways, Behind Her Eyes feels like a throwback to that era. Based on a novel by Sarah Pinborough, the latest Netflix series wants to be a steamy exploration of a torrid affair, where two corners of a love triangle are shrouded in mystery, and it’s difficult to ascertain their true motives. But there’s something muddled about the presentation of Behind Her Eyes’ twists and turns, where revelations take ages to appear, the anticipation of which isn’t powerful enough to get us through its stagnant lulls.

With a young son at home, single mother Louise (Simona Brown) has few opportunities to let her hair down. But on a rare night out at a local bar, she runs into David (Tom Bateman), and they share an immediate connection. There is a snap, however — the next morning, she learns that not only is he married, but he’s also her new boss. Surprise! Louise truly has the worst luck, and you don’t even know the half of it yet. They make a vow to keep things professional, which of course, lasts all of five minutes.

But this is far from an ordinary love affair because there’s something peculiar and unsettling about the relationship between psychiatrist David and his meek, eager-to-please wife Adele (Eve Hewson.) David comes across as controlling, checking up on his wife multiple times over the course of the workday and strong-arming her into taking psychiatric medication. We learn a great deal about Adele’s history of mental health issues, but the question remains: is she actually unstable, and David is protecting her or is that just an excuse he uses to keep her under lock and key?

Their relationship remains murky and difficult to define, and Louise struggles to reconcile her sexual affair with David and her burgeoning friendship with the lonely, fragile Adele. There are no easy answers here, and every time Louise thinks she has a handle on the situation, a new complication arises. All she has to go on are vague allusions to their shared past and a mysterious notebook from Rob, Adele’s friend from her stint in a psychiatric institution.

The mystery of this all holds up for two, maybe three, episodes. But there are six episodes here, and Behind Her Eyes withholds its secrets until the last possible moment, leaving a lot of dead air to fill. One would assume that the scandalous liaisons between Louise and David would take up some of that space, but they’re actually a surprisingly tepid affair. And without that infusion of sex, we have only the plot to entertain us, something that’s relatively thin on the ground for much of the series’ run.

The biggest problem is one of pacing. The narrative needs to reach a certain conclusion. For that to happen, we have to slog through several perfunctory plot points before we can get there, story elements that aren’t necessarily engaging from an audience perspective but are necessary. Louise’s forays into lucid dreaming, for example, drag on forever and offer little in the way of story development: they only happen because they have to happen. And Louise herself is often infuriating, making one nonsensical judgment call after another that doesn’t mesh with what we know of her as a character; she’s empathetic and kind, but she’s not stupid.

Hewson, as Adele does the most to acquit herself: left to her own devices, she single-handedly cultivates an unsettling vibe. Her characterization of Adele is ambiguous and constantly in flux, and it’s possible to change your mind about her several times within just a single scene. Alas, even she can only do so much, and her efforts aren’t enough to save Behind Her Eyes from mediocrity. It has a lot of intriguing ideas and some majorly impactful moments, especially towards the end. Still, by the time we finally get to them, Behind Her Eyes hasn’t done enough to keep our attention enough to make them really stick the landing. Although it has an appealing concept and some strong performances from its main cast, it squanders most of its potential and ends up a disappointingly tedious affair.

5
Average
Written by
Audrey Fox has been an entertainment journalist since 2014, specializing in film and television. She has written for Awards Circuit, Jumpcut Online, Crooked Marquee, We Are the Mutants, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic. Audrey is firm in her belief that Harold Lloyd is the premier silent film comedian, Sky High is the greatest superhero movie ever made, Mad Men's "The Suitcase" is the single best episode of television to date, and no one in the world has ever given Anton Walbrook enough credit for his acting work. Her favorite movies include Inglourious Basterds, Some Like It Hot, The Elephant Man, Singin' in the Rain, Jurassic Park, and Back to the Future.

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