Remember when everyone was obsessed with the book “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The frenzy was such that people could not wait to see the on-screen adaptation of the same. The movie was average, but it created a fan following for a certain type of cinema, and ever since, a lot of cinema and television shows based on the same subject have come out that explicitly talk about a relationship that crosses the line. “Obsession” is a Netflix Original Miniseries directed by Lisa Barros D’sa and Glenn Leyburn and released on the platform on April 13, 2023. The show is all about an affair that happened between two people that might change their lives for the better.
The show begins with Dr. William Farrow, a well-known London-based pediatric surgeon who is known for successfully separating conjoined twins. After a long day at the hospital, all Will wants to do is spend some time with his wife and kids. William’s father-in-law is a politically connected man who helps William make a lot of contacts. William is leading a content life so far with his beautiful wife Ingrid, son Jay, and daughter Sally. Jay reveals having found the love of his life, whose name is Anna Barton. Jay is too excited to be in a relationship, but he cannot wait to introduce her to his family. In a few days, William and Ingrid happen to go to a political gathering, where he runs into an intoxicatingly beautiful woman who introduces herself as Anna Barton.
William soon learns she is Jay’s girlfriend, but they can’t seem to take their eyes off each other. William, who is a busy family man, is desperate and wants some thrill from his life, and a look at Anna brings back all the thrill he is seeking. Anna, too, recognizes William as Jay’s father, and she cannot help but be in awe of the man he is she cannot stop herself from approaching him. As days go by, William and Anna get in touch and begin a torrid affair, knowing that if any of the family members were made aware of what they were up to, it would be the end of their so-called family. But none of this stops Ann and William from seeking each other out daily. It is all exciting and steamy until one of them becomes obsessive and slightly more emotional than they should have. That is bound to make the relationship complicated, but how will they get out of this situation?
This miniseries tried to mimic the “Fifty Shades of Grey” kind of storytelling, where there are plenty of steamy scenes of the affair between two people who are not supposed to look at each other the way they are right now. But past a certain point, it seems the director and the writer only wanted to titillate the audience by adding plenty of intimate scenes. The intimate scenes do not carry any sense of passion or desire to make the audience feel some genuineness coming out of the actors. It seems it’s just a way to get the attention of the audience. It seems the actor just needs to have a broody gaze and a baritone voice to come across as an appealing and desirable man. For the steamy scenes to work, there must be chemistry between the lead actors, which is nonexistent throughout all four episodes. It is jarring to watch how much time the screenplay spends on just the affair between the leads, but there is no solid reason given as to why they began the affair in the first place. William had everything going for him: a life and a career, but there is no character arc given to understand why he would indulge in an affair after all. The same goes for Anna as well. There is a trauma-related back story given to her, but again, that does not justify her current situation or the reason for her beginning an affair with her fiancé’s father. There should have been detailed screen time given as to why they are not happy with their current lives, which would have been easy to comprehend, that led to this attraction followed by a liaison that would forever change their lives.
The show is based on the book “Damage” by Josephine Hart; the adapted screenplay spends no time talking about the lives the leads live and jumps straight to the affair part, which looks like this is what the duo wanted to talk about after all. There had to be more screen time given to her relationship with Jay, what made it complicated, and why Anna chose to have an affair. The same goes for William, whose wife seems to just be there in the screenplay for the sake of it, and there is no screen time given to her and the relationship she shares with her husband, who, despite all the love they have for each other ends up getting distracted. The screenplay only wanted to give screen time to the affair part and nothing else, which made the viewing experience more boring. Tales such as this need to have spice and drama for the story to get going, but “Obsession” had nothing going for itself from the beginning till the end. The climax was predictable, but the screenplay was too stretched out in the end. It felt like the writer did not know how to end the show and kept adding scenarios and scenes just for it to make sense when and how they ended it. It was amateurish, and the sense of direction seemed bad after all.
The only performance that stood out was Charlie Murphy as Anna Barton. Her performance as a woman who has faced trauma from a young age that has affected her to date as well as her relationship comes out well. Too bad her character was not written with such complexity, but if it had, Charlie would have been able to bring out the depth of Anna’s character. Even Richard Armitage, as Dr. William, sadly brings out the vulnerability he was facing as a man who was seeking emotional validation as well from his lover and ends up becoming the man always seeking Anna. The story of this miniseries is too predictable, and the end could be guessed from a mile away. If only the writers had given the show more depth and drama. No matter how steamy this show claims to be, “Obsession” is a lukewarm watch.