Obsession, Netflix, review: Just another throwaway shagfest
Obsession, The streamer’s latest erotic thriller is neither erotic nor thrilling
There will be a huge cohort of Netflix subscribers devastated by the recent cancellation of the streamer’s soft porn drama Sex/Life. No, really — loads of people actually sat through two seasons of it. Not to worry, Netflix has plenty more where that came from. Enter Obsession, the latest sexy erotic thriller to be added to its horny catalogue.
Except Obsession isn’t sexy. Nor is it thrilling. It’s just another nondescript, unconsidered throwaway piece of streaming tat.
Richard Armitage (a regular in Netflix’s Harlan Coben adaptations) plays William, a successful and respected surgeon. When we first meet him, he’s just completed a groundbreaking operation to separate conjoined twins and is invited to a party at Westminster, his father-in-law minister hoping to convince him to take an advisory role in the government. It’s there he meets Anna (Charlie Murphy, best known as Ann Gallagher in Happy Valley), the girlfriend of his son Jay (Rish Shah, Ms Marvel).
Their connection is instantly steamy. Or so we’re supposed to think, but Anna’s dead-eyed stare and William’s suggestive feeding of an olive to her open mouth comes off more creepy than seductive. Aside from a brushed hand over a kitchen sink and some suggestive looks across the table at a family dinner, that’s all the foreplay we get. Before long, the pair are engaged in a BDSM shagfest, meeting in Anna’s apartment for regular sessions of heads banging against walls and wrists tied with red ribbon.
It’s explicit, but not sexy at all. Both William and Anna grunt their way through rushed sex, and it looks like neither of them are having a particularly good time. A severe string-led score overpowers every torrid scene, making consensual sex between two adults feel more menacing than it should, even if they are having an affair. In a show as bad as this, the sex needs to be exciting and titillating, but in Obsession, it’s the most boring part.
The show is adapted from Josephine Hart’s 1991 novel Damage, which is told entirely from William’s perspective. Writer Morgan Lloyd Malcolm wanted to make sure the series delved deeper into Anna’s character, giving her a reason why she would want to embark on an affair with her boyfriend’s dad that would inevitably blow up her entire life. The result is a tragic backstory involving child sexual abuse at the hands of her now dead brother, which adds an icky layer to the story. Are we supposed to believe Anna is a sexual deviant because of her past abuse? That Jay is supposedly the spitting image of her brother makes the detail even creepier.
As Anna and William’s affair ramps up, the surgeon becomes increasingly obsessed with his paramour. One memorable scene (for all the wrong reasons, but fair play to Armitage’s gung-ho attitude to nudity) sees him follow his son and Anna to Paris where he rents their hotel room after they’ve checked out and pleasures himself (read: humps the bed) while aggressively sniffing a cushion.
I won’t spoil the ending, but the series leaves us with a teary William and a confused message. Are we supposed to feel sorry for the man who tore his family apart for his BDSM fantasies? A man who essentially stalked his lover? A man who ended up being responsible for someone’s death?
Obsession is only four episodes long and each of them is less than an hour. Still, the time drags on, largely because nothing of note actually happens. Every single character is thinly drawn, and while the actors try to inject as much emotion into the lifeless script and story as they can (particularly Indira Varma as William’s wife Ingrid, who doesn’t belong in a series this dire), the lack of characterisation is unignorable. It makes it hard to care about, well, anyone or anything involved.
Nevertheless, I would bet on Obsession topping Netflix’s most-watched chart by the end of this weekend. Sex sells, and the temptation of a show that might ignite the fantasies will get enough people tuning in to the first episode at least. But just like Sex/Life before it, this is just another feeble attempt to appeal to our most base instincts and failing to deliver on a climax.
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