THE ROMANOFFS (2018) – AMAZON TV REVIEW
Created and directed by: Matthew Weiner
Writer(s): Matthew Weiner, Michael Goldbach, Mary Sweeney, Semi Challas, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Donald Joh, Kris Turner Towner etc.
Composers: Anton Sanko, David Carbonara, Giona Ostinelli, Sonya Belousova, Marcelo Zarvos etc.
Cinematography: Christopher Manley
Original Network: Amazon Studios
**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**
Matthew Weiner and his production team were behind one of the most brilliant television series of recent years in Mad Men. The quality of writing, directing, acting, art direction and attention to period detail on that show was incredibly rich. Overall, Mad Men wasn’t about big surprises and massive plot twists, but rather strong characterisation, evocation of an era and dense analysis of existential moments within romantic, family and industrial relationships.
Weiner’s next project The Romanoffs, finds him in a similar character driven mode. It’s a contemporary anthology series about people who are descendants of the Russian Royal family. The eight stories loosely connect but mainly stand alone, dealing with the lives, loves, turmoil and deaths of privileged people. As such mostly first world and high class problems abide. Altogether, the productions are expertly presented with Amazon clearly throwing a lot of money at them.
As they are self-contained narratives I have decided to order them in personal preference, rather than Amazon’s air order. Thus, here are said mini-reviews with usual marks out of eleven.
THE ONE THAT HOLDS EVERYTHING (EPISODE 8)
Main cast: Hugh Skinner, Hera Hilmar, Ben Miles, JJ Feild
This is the final story in the series and they saved the best until last. It is an incredibly dark exploration of family conflict that traverses the life of Hugh Skinner’s tragic Simon Romanov. Flash-backs entwine with flash-backs as his story unfolds from various perspectives. The script is incredible and certainly one of the best stories I have seen all year.
Mark: 10 out of 11
HOUSE OF SPECIAL PURPOSE (EPISODE 3)
Main cast: Christina Hendricks, Isabelle Huppert, Jack Huston, Paul Reiser
This is an absolutely brilliant satire about the filmmaking process. It finds Hendricks’ movie star on the crazy set of Isabelle Huppert’s eccentric director. The narrative channels horror, surrealist, comedy, drama and romance genres with a complex screenplay. Huppert and Hendricks are superb; as is the jaw-dropping ending!
Mark: 9 out of 11
BRIGHT AND HIGH CIRCLE (EPISODE 5)
Main cast: Diane Lane, Ron Livingston, David Patton
Thematically very strong, the story finds Diane Lane and Ron Livingston as wealthy parents whose children may or may not have been abused by their piano teacher. It’s a subtle exploration of middle class paranoia and universal fear glued together by a superlative performance from Lane.
Mark: 8 out of 11
END OF THE LINE (EPISODE 7)
Main Cast: Kathryn Hahn, Jay R. Ferguson, Annet Mahendru
Like the very watchable Netflix film Private LIves (2018), this story finds Kathryn Hahn portraying another parent desperate for a child. Hahn and her husband, Ferguson, travel to Vladivostock to adopt a Russian child and face all manner of cultural, geographical, health and language barriers. It’s an absorbing piece which really drags you in but ultimately the drama felt protracted by the end.
Mark: 7.5 out of 11
PANORAMA (EPISODE 6)
Main cast: Radha Mitchell, Juan Pable Castaneda, Griffin Dunne
More travelogue and history lesson with a mild romantic drama added, this story promises much but peters out by the end. Castaneda’s journalist investigates medical malpractice but it’s left to Radha Mitchell and the wonderful setting of Mexico City to provide the emotional depth.
Mark: 7 out of 11
THE VIOLET HOUR (EPISODE 1)
Main cast: Aaron Eckhart, Marthe Keller, Louise Bourgoin, Ines Melab
What starts off as a fascinating culture clash dramedy between an elderly racist and her Muslim carer, strangely left-turns into an tacked-on romance story. The cast are excellent and there’s some fine dialogue but it felt unbelievable toward the end for me.
Mark: 6.5 out of 11
THE ROYAL WE (EPISODE 2)
Main cast: Kerry Bishe, Corey Stoll, Janet Montgomery
Mid-life crises and male “seven-year itches” drive the narrative as a bunch of selfish and adulterous actions made me hate Stoll’s character. The Jury Service scenes are interesting but aside from Kerry Bishe’s decent character, I found this a painful way to spend eighty-or-so minutes.
Mark: 6 out of 11
EXPECTATION (EPISODE 4)
Main cast: Amanda Peet, Emily Rudd, John Slattery
Amanda Peet’s character has a bad day – THE END! Even the appearance of the mercurial John Slattery cannot save this disappointingly empty story.