Netflix has released the first look at Alias Grace, the latest TV adaptation from Margaret Atwood. This is not the first time Atwood's work has been adapted for the small screen. Earlier this year her novel The Handmaid's Tale was turned into a show by Hulu and earned both critical acclaim and Emmy nominations. The prolific author's "speculative fiction" MaddAddam Trilogy is also set to become a series for HBO, although that project has been in development for quite some time now.
Alias Grace is based on the true story of the murders of Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross) and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin) that took place in Canada in 1843. Two of the household's other servants were charged with murder: a 16 year old Irish maid named Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon) and James McDermott (Kerr Logan), the stable hand. At the time they attracted interest due to Grace's youth and beauty and the drama around Nancy's illicit relationship with her employer (they had a child together). Atwood's novel does take some liberties with the truth, introducing the fictional character of Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft) to investigate the case.
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The trailer above for Alias Grace is foreboding. It shows Grace innocent enough at first, just a poor girl caught in a bad situation. However, it quickly gets creepier, almost starting to feel like a horror movie by the end. In the trailer Grace is older - she has spent 15 years in jail waiting to find out her fate. Conveniently (or perhaps not) it appears that she cannot remember what happened on the fateful day of the murders and Dr. Jordan is there to try to uncover the truth. It looks like a dark and twisting drama featuring a protagonist with questionable reliability.
The six episode limited series is written and produced by Sarah Polley (Take This Waltz). It is directed by Mary Harron who most notably wrote and directed another adaptation about an unreliable narrator and murderer - American Psycho. Hulu's adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale also featured female directors in eight of its 10 episodes. Atwood served as a supervising producer on both series.
Fans of true crime are sure to like Alias Grace as they try to put together the clues of this age old real life mystery and whether or not Grace is innocent. It will also appease those Atwood fans waiting for the second season of The Handmaid's Tale with another look at a woman in oppressive circumstance and the lengths to which she will go to survive. And who knows, if all goes well, Gadon could see herself gaining the same high praise as Handmaid's Tale star Elisabeth Moss.
Atwood is a talented writer and storyteller with works spanning multiple genres from historical fiction to graphic novels. She is known for creating complex worlds and fascinating characters. It will be interesting to see an adaptation of one of her stories based on true events and people rather than something wholly fictional.
Alias Grace premieres on Netflix on November 3rd.