All The Light We Cannot See - Photo Netflix
All The Light We Cannot See – Photo Netflix

Adapting a beloved best-seller isn’t easy, but screenwriter Steven Knight (“Peaky Blinders”) and director Shawn Levy (“Stranger Things”) tackle Anthony Doerr’s 544-page, 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “All the Light We Cannot See” with timely relevance; antisemitism is – once again in 2024 – rampant across the globe.

Set in occupied France during World War II, the epic story – often told in flashbacks – revolves around blind Marie-Laure (Aria Mia Loberti), who lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her devoted father, Daniel LeBlanc (Mark Ruffalo), is a master locksmith. 

Daniel is also a gifted craftsman who constructs intricately detailed models of their neighborhood so Marie-Laure can memorize the placement of stores and surrounding streets, giving her the ability to navigate and develop a sense of independence.

When Nazis invade, father and teenage daughter take refuge in the walled seaside town of Saint-Malo, moving in with reclusive great-uncle Etienne (Hugh Laurie), an agoraphobic World War I veteran who – as ‘the Professor’ – secretly broadcasts from his attic, delivering coded messages to aid the French Resistance.

Fearful that it will wind up in Hitler’s possession, Daniel carries a priceless-but-cursed diamond, a treasured museum artifact. Known as the Sea of Flames, the fabled gem promises eternal life along with great misfortune.

Meanwhile, in Germany, orphaned Werner Pfennig (Louis Hofmann) listens to a forbidden radio broadcast that brings him not only news but also hope for the future. Recognized for his radio-tech skills, Werner is recruited into the Army, where he dares to disobey orders. Inevitably, his path crosses with Marie-Laure’s.

Since Shawn Levy was adamant about ‘authenticity’ and ‘representation,’ radiant newcomer Aria Mia Loberti was a Ph.D. student at Penn State when she was discovered through a worldwide casting call for actors who are blind or visually impaired; seven year-old Marie-Laure is played by Nell Sutton, who is also blind. 

Filming for 80 days in Budapest, Villefranche-de-Rouergue and Saint-Malo, the scene in which hordes of refugees flee from Paris includes present-day Ukrainians, emigrees to Hungary, who had escaped from the Russian invasion.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “All the Light We Cannot See” is an intriguing 8 – the four-part mini-series is streaming on Netflix.

The Crown - Photo Netflix
The Crown – Photo Netflix

Season 6 of “The Crown” focuses on the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki), the demise of Princess Margaret (Lesley Manville), the college courtship of Prince William (Ed McVey) and Kate Middleton (Meg Bellamy), the marriage of Prince Charles (Dominic West) to Camilla Parker Bowles’ (Olivia Williams) and the growing resentment/rebellion of Prince Harry (Luther Ford), including his Nazi costume scandal.

The first couple of episodes of Part 2 – which premiered mid-December – border on tedious. Ever-popular Queen Elizabeth (Imelda Staunton) is stunned by the popular backlash to her silence in the wake of Diana’s fateful car crash. Prime Minister Tony Blair (Bertie Carvel) earns increasingly high approval ratings. A dream sequence in which Blair is crowned King is beyond bizarre.

As her reign draws to a close, the Queen is visited by incarnations of her former self (Claire Foy, Olivia Colman, Viola Prettejohn) and she poignantly reminisces about her youthful jubilation on V.E. Day in 1945 after World War II ended – sneaking out of Buckingham Palace to join other celebrants at the Ritz. 

After dwelling on the Monarch’s legendary devotion to duty, series creator / showrunner Peter Morgan envisions a dialogue between the elderly Queen and aging Prince Philip (Jonathan Pryce), who conclude that the British Royal Family is doomed after they die.

“Those that come after you are not remotely ready to take over,” Prince Philip rants. “You were born ready. You are one of a kind.” He goes on: “The system makes no sense anymore to those outside it, nor to those inside it.”

Considering that these final episodes were filmed during the transition of power from Queen Elizabeth II to Prince Charles – now King Charles III – its tone is surprisingly anti-royalist. Which is not surprising since the Prince of Wales’ longtime mistress is now Queen Consort and Windsor family antics have assumed tabloid soap opera status.

On the Granger Gauge, “The Crown – Season 6, Part 2” is a rather disappointing 6, streaming on Netflix – but look for it to be a strong Emmy contender.

Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See all her reviews at www.susangranger.com.