The family that flees together, stays together.
The Mosquito Coast
First two episodes now streaming on Apple TV+ . Subsequent episodes will drop every Friday.
Approaching a new adaptation of Paul Theroux’s novel with memories of Peter Weir’s feature-film version, starring Harrison Ford, echoing through my mind, I was initially taken aback by the focus on the lead character’s family, and then I saw the brilliance of that approach.
And, in fact, it may not be a new approach by series creator Neil Cross (Luther) — I confess that I’ve never read Theroux’s novel — but it, truly, is a very well developed and striking approach to the idea of a man who may be an unappreciated genius and/or simultaneously a loving, charismatic man whose family loves him dearly, even as they question his motives and/or sanity.
Justin Theroux embodies Allie Fox as a man who believes in science and his own family, but not much else. His wife Margot (Melissa George), eldest teen daughter Dina (Logan Polish), and younger teen son Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) are devoted to him, but other natural desires (family, love, curiosity) are threatening to pull them apart, not to mention powerful government authorities.
Allie Fox may be brilliant, but all his brilliance has not added up to very little in a material way. The family is struggling to make ends meet in Stockton, California. Allie’s apparently paranoid mistrust of authority and certain technologies also worry older daughter Dina, who yearns to be “normal,” whatever that means to a teenager nowadays.
But just because you’re paranoid, that doesn’t mean everyone isn’t out to get you, which comes true before the series gets very far. The scripting is very tightly paced, allowing sufficient time to understand the motivations of the wife and children while keeping the father as a bundled-up coil of nerves that threaten to explode at any moment.
The tense atmosphere is kept taut by director Rupert Wyatt, who is well-versed in serving good material well, as in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and that, in turn, gets the series off to a very good start in the first two episodes. I’m tempted to pull out my paperback copy of Paul Theroux’s novel and finally read it, but I’m wary of any possible spoilers. I can’t wait to see what Mr. Cross and family have up their sleeves in the coming weeks.
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