Not a word: human weaknesses, family conflicts and secret passions, the keys to the Polish mini-series which is a hit on Netflix

Not a word: human weaknesses, family conflicts and secret passions, the keys to the Polish mini-series which is a hit on Netflix

Not a word (hang tightPoland, 2022). Address: Bartosz Konopka, Michal Gazda. Film script: Wojciech Miloszewski and Agata Malesinska (on Harlan Coben’s novel). Photography: Tomasz Augustynek and Piotr Niemyjski. Assembly: Andrzej Dabrowski and Piotr Kmiecik. Cast: Magdalena Boczarska, Leszek Lichota, Krzysztof Oleksyn, Grzegorz Damiecki, Agata Labno, Agnieszka Grochowska, Julia Wyszynska, Adam Nawojczyk. Available in: Netflix. Our opinion: good.

Once again, the universe of Harlan Coben is material for a plot that takes place inside a family and the tentacles of its environment. The novel, published in 2008 and set in the United States – the country of the writer – moves in the adaptation to a closed district of the city of Warsaw and recovers certain characters from the other Polish mini-series on the Coben universe, forest inside (2020). Although two characters reappear, former prosecutor Pawel Kopinski (Grzegorz Damiecki) and psychologist Laura Goldsztajn (Agnieszka Grochowska), now in their new married life and in tune with this new investigation, the story of Not a word He has absolute autonomy. Contrary to what happened in forest insidewhere the faults of the past and covering them up were key to adult life, the conflict now descends into a dark teenage pact of silence that unfolds in the present.

It is one of the central ideas of Coben that the Poles took up with intelligence. How secrets and concealments within circles of friends and family relationships become a chasm of death and tragedy. Everything takes place in a luxurious district of Warsaw, where Anna and Michal Barczyk (Magdalena Boczarska and Leszek Lichota) and their two children live. Teenage boy Adam (Krzysztof Oleksyn) has been behaving strangely for a long time, hurt by the overdose death of his best friend Igor. The school prepares a tribute, but Adam is consumed with guilt. To help her, Anna decides to install a spy application on her mobile phone to monitor her movements and prevent any misfortune. However, bad luck knocks on the door: Adam’s crisis leads to a raid on the outskirts of Warsaw, unexpected threats and dangers.

The logic of Not a word It consists of presenting its pieces in an offbeat way: the story of Anna and her fear for her son; the abduction of a woman from a bar; the suspicion about Igor’s death, the pact of silence between the friends which begins to crack beyond repair. Although it does not renounce the classic police investigation – mixing the figure of an investigator who appears in hostile and sexist territory, a plot that falls within contemporary detective stories rather than the universe of Harlan Coben – the mini -series unfolds around an idea: how well do parents know their children and what are they willing to do to protect them. Strategies always have conflicting edges: is it parental control that reinforces children’s rebellion? Or is abandonment and inattention precisely what causes setbacks and anguish?

Not a word (Netflix).Piotr Litwic

Adapted by the same authors from forest insideWojciech Miloszewski and Agata Malesinska, Not a word assumes the same tension, the use of repeated turns of the screw, but renounces the thickness of the characters and their internal conflicts. With the exception of Anna, supported by the great work of Magdalena Boczarska, the rest of the characters operate in reaction to events, and the systematic attempt to mislead the viewer strips them of their flesh and brings them into the mechanism of the action. In forest inside this restriction of the original material was complemented by an ominous staging of temporary spaces and games that made the revelations have a visceral impact, beyond the sensationalism of the unexpected.

Not a word he works in his plot, he manages to end each of his episodes with the perfect question to move on, but there is a feeling that lingers, and that is that he can’t manage to delve too deeply into his conflicts, which have a clear human and social dimension. The use of tension between adults and adolescents, the impact of these voices of authority in children’s lives – which is addressed laterally in the effect of a teacher’s comment on a girl’s school situation, then bullied by her peers—and the relationship between substance use and adolescent angst is barely sketched without a broader approach than that of a source of suspense.

Not a word (Netflix).
Not a word (Netflix).Photo credit: Piotr Litwic

The appeal of Harlan Coben’s tale, which has seen numerous adaptations as mini-series in the UK, France, Spain and Poland – most of which have premiered on Netflix – lies above all in the universality of its conflicts, rooted in human weaknesses, family conflicts, secret passions, which are expressed in various cities and idiosyncrasies. Here the result is effective, without fanfare or original appropriations, concentrated in this logic of Chinese boxes where each revelation provokes a new appearance and the devastating effects of its support.

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