The Luminaries (2020)

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

Based on a best-selling novel, The Luminaries is a long and often convoluted tale of two people destined to share parallel lives. They first meet on a ship headed for Australia, where both hope to make their fortunes in the gold strike. Anna Wetherell (Eve Hewson) is a bright-eyed realist, and Emery Staines (Himesh Patel) is a romantic dreamer. Drawn up on deck at the same time, they feel a strange connection to each other and introduce themselves. Eager to learn more about her, Emery invites her to dinner at his hotel and writes it down on a slip of paper. She is too shy to tell him she cannot read, but hopes to find someone kind enough to tell her what it says. Within hours of her arrival, she runs into Lydia Wells (Eva Green), a madam who lures men into her brothel by promising to read them their fortunes.

Lydia tells her where to find Emery and tears up the piece of paper... but sends her to the wrong hotel and steals her purse, unknown to Anna. When she cannot pay her rent for the night, Anna winds up returning to her hopeful of assistance, since Lydia seems to be a nice person and willing to take in girls who cannot pay their own way. But then Lydia's wayward husband comes home... with a fortune in gold, and before she knows it, Anna discovers a sinister plot to rid him of his newfound riches. Meanwhile, Emery wonders what happened to her and gets mislead by Lydia's lover, Francis (Marton Csokas), at her request. You see, Lydia has become curious about Anna, because she seems to have an astral twin. Someone born at the same time under the same stars... and they are connected in ways neither can imagine.

I'll be honest with you, I didn't watch this entire series -- just up to the second-to-last episode, because it's so unfathomably boring. You would think given its themes -- a gold rush, astral twins, a murder investigation, and an evil plot -- would make it interesting, but for some unknown reason, the storyline bounces between "the future" and "the past," forcing us to live out two storylines at once. It sets up Anna to take the fall for a murder and asks what happened to a character... and then throws us back in time to show us what led up to that point. This technique does not often work well, and would be better here if there wasn't so much dead air. There are lot of long scenes of people just staring around them, gazing into the distance, walking on the beach, etc. It doesn't help that the two romantic leads have no chemistry and the head actress has nothing really to do. Anna is a boring character who doesn't say much, leaving me to wonder why she makes a lot of the choices she does (other than she's just really passive and agreeable).

Eva Green is of course wonderful, but the script doesn't live up to her presence. There's a bunch of secondary characters that failed to engage me, also. The costumes are beautiful and it's a delight to watch something set in Australia. I just wish it had been a linear script, introducing us to everyone and then progressing in real time through their stories, because then it would be easier to follow and might allow the audience to better connect to Anna and her plight. There's not a ton of offensive content in it, either. If you have the patience to really invest in it, don't mind flashing back and forward in time, and have a spare weekend, try it, but it's not unmissable television.

Sexual Content:
Implied sex (character kiss and undress each other); one graphic sex scene (noise and movement); an illegitimate child; a main character becomes a whore, though we never really see her plying her trade. Two romances involve adultery.
A few abuses of Jesus' name, some profanities.
Moderate. Men beat up each other in a bar and steal from each other; a man turns up dead and bloody; a woman falls out a window and suffers a miscarriage.

The main characters believe in astrology and portents, two of them are astral twins, so whatever happens to one of them, also happens to the other one (a woman shoots herself and has no wound, but the man falls over miles away from being shot). Main characters become opium addicts and Lydia uses their drug addiction to her own advantage.

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