Director: Guillem Morales
Writer: John Brownlow
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Romola Garai, Alex Hassell, Hayley Squires, Paapa Essiedu
The Miniaturist is a 2017 BBC miniseries based on the 2014 novel of the same name by Kessie Burton. Set in 17th Century Amsterdam, the story follows Petronella (Anya Taylor-Joy) who is recently married to Johannes Brandt (Alex Hassell). She moves into her new home and her husband isn’t there to greet her, in fact he doesn’t seem that interested in her at all apart from some passing greetings. Instead, he buys her a cabinet doll’s house designed to look like their home for her to fill with objects. Petronella contacts a miniaturist to order objects for the cabinet, but along with what she orders the package contains other objects and dolls that looks strikingly similar to those around her. As their lives are thrown into turmoil Petronella seeks out the miniaturist to find out how they have such an insight into the Brandt household.
The two-part series, which can be combined to watch as a two-and-a-half-hour film, is filled with mystery. Petronella arrives without really knowing anyone in the household, she’d only met Johannes once prior. Instead of finding a warm welcome, instead she is ushered to her room, separated from her pet parakeet. Johannes’s sister, Marin (Romola Garai) is very cold to her and almost seems envious of Petronella’s new position. The house servants seems to keep a distance and don’t let Petronella in on secrets of the household. She’s completely isolated, even though Johannes himself seems polite and kind to her. There’s clearly more going on in the household, and the marriage is clearly not a genuine one. Added to that mystery is the miniaturist, who seems to know a lot about what’s going on in the household, sending unasked for miniatures, even after being asked to stop, that recreate the real household.
Throughout the story there’s a really unsettling and creepy tone, that almost feels like a horror story. It feels like Petronella is always one step away from finding her own doom, and it’s really tense as she starts to uncover the secrets. Beyond this, the miniseries is essentially a period drama, dealing with the social issues of the era that its set in. It really works on that level and doesn’t really need the more supernatural elements. Despite the actual miniaturist being a really interesting and engaging mystery, it really doesn’t go anywhere. It’s the title of the miniseries and isn’t explored in any meaningful way at all, and when the whole thing is over that plot thread feels very thin and pointless. The best thing about The Miniaturist is the main dramatic plot with public scandals and sugar trading, and that’s what’s worth watching. The mystery is gripping, but it’s the drama that really stands out. At first it feels like the miniaturist is the main focus, but as the story goes on it becomes more and more side-lined.
With a great cast, excellent sets, and an engrossing mystery The Miniaturist is a really great miniseries and really worth watching.
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