THE CROWDED ROOM Review: Unfolding the Past, Slowly
Truth is in the eye of the beholder.
The Crowded Room
The first three episodes make their global debut Friday, June 9, on Apple TV+. Subsequent episodes will debut weekly. I've seen all 10 episodes of the limited series.
Arrested for his involvement in a New York City shooting incident, Danny Sullivan (Tom Holland) sits down for an interview with Rya Goodwin (Amanda Seyfried), who seeks the truth about his possible motive.
To do so, she asks Danny to tell his own story, and it's a wild tale. Rewinding to his high school days, he talks about merciless bullying from all sides. He also talks about a few friendly faces. Mostly, though, it's about how the world appears to be arrayed against him, judging by how harshly he is treated by others.
It's harrowing. The uneasy distress is exacerbated by an escalating series of brutal incidents throughout the first three episodes and beyond, detailed at a length and pace that remains purposefully mysterious and unsettled. Created by Akiva Goldsman, who has built a long and commercially successful career as a writer, producer, and occasional director, the series left me feeling beat up and bruised, which mirrors the way that Danny Sullivan is handled.
Because so much of the series revolves around the mystery that drives it, any further plot details would derail the tentative momentum that the first three episodes build. Having seen all ten episodes in advance, I can understand why Goldsman chose to structure the series in this manner, yet I am not convinced that an episodic series at this length is as continually gripping as it's clearly intended to be.
Minute by minute, it's slow going. In that sense, it's much like reading a novel that spends hundreds of pages telling a short story.
Tom Holland does his best to convey the actively glum unhappiness of his character. Amanda Seyfried makes for a sharply observant, empathetic interviewer. Emmy Rosseum, Sasha Lane, Jason Isaacs, and Christopher Abbot, among others, all contribute strong performances, which are decorated with an abundance of subtle period production design, set decoration, and costuming, shot and edited with persuasive precision.
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