The new mini-series The Eddy has just been released on Netflix. The first two episodes were directed by La La Land director Damien Chazelle. This is no La La Land. The Eddy is certainly not a romance told through musical dancing numbers. It is a series that aspires to be gritty and true to Parisian living, without falling into the stereotypical postcard image of the city of lights.
The Eddy begins in a jazz club. A handheld camera follows a waiter as the house band performs on stage. The camera swirls from one side to the other, framing each band member in some very strange angles until it turns its attention to the audience, and settles on one man in particular, the main character of the series.
The eight-episode series stars an amazing André Holland (Moonlight, Selma) who plays Elliot Udo, a celebrated jazz pianist from New York who has moved to Paris after the death of his son. Now, he co-owns a club named The Eddy, with his business partner, Farid, played by Tahar Rahim (A Prophet). The club is, however, struggling. Not many people attend it, and, as Elliot will find out, Farid has involved their club in some shady dealings. While Elliot tries to save The Eddy and the house band he manages, which has Maja, played by Joanna Kulig (Cold War) as the lead singer, he must also take care of his troubled teenage daughter Julie (Amandla Stenberg).
While the handheld camera may add to the realism (and the Cinéma vérité/French New Wave look), it becomes tedious and very unpleasant to watch (especially when running as it follows the lead character). Thankfully, the jittery camera work is toned down by episode three—incidentally once the series changes directors—and the series becomes more interesting.
The episodes were directed by Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Houda Benyamina (Divines), Laïla Marrakchi (one of the directors of series The Bureau), and Alan Poul (Tales of the City). Each have directed two episodes. The series was written by Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials), and the songs by Glen Ballard, who also established The Eddy’s band which is composed of real-life musicians.
Each episode focuses on one character, while continuing the main storyline of Elliot trying to save his relationship with his daughter and the fate of the club. This is not a series to binge, each episode is a little over an hour long which feels enough for one sitting. It is a proper television series, not an elongated movie that has been stretched to fit the series format. Each episode could easily stand alone. As each episode progresses, we discover a little more about each character that are in Elliot’s life.
It is the different relationships between all of these characters that make this series intriguing, and not Elliot’s struggle to keep his club afloat by disentangling it from the grip of gangsters. Episode three on Amira (Leïla Bekhti), Farid’s wife, is especially moving, showing how the band comes together in a moment of hardship. Bekhti really commands this episode, as Amira guides her son through her community’s rituals. It is really these moments of intimacy that will make you want to continue watching this series, as when Sim dances with his grandmother, when Jude is invited by his ex to her wedding, or when Julie finally sings with her father.
Holland is a fascinating actor. I wish the series had spent more time unravelling his character’s past, with Farid, Maja, the enduring trauma of his son’s death which clearly had a deep impact on his relationship with his daughter and his career. All of this is hinted at, but not delved into.
The overarching plot that started in episode one with Farid’s shady business is less interesting and seems to have some holes. What unfolds at the end of episode one comes as a shock, and is completely unexpected (I won’t reveal it here as it would spoil it). However, once the mystery of what happened at the end of this episode is resolved, it does not entirely add up. The last episode actually leaves the resolution open (we are told it is resolved, but after eight episodes of struggle, it seems too easy), perhaps for the possibility of a second season.