Martin Carr reviews Don’t Look Deeper…
At first glance Don’t Look Deeper is a contemporary tale of adolescent angst, repressed emotions and personal loss. However, much of this Quibi series which brings revered director Catherine Hardwicke on board trades in subterfuge. There are shades of Blade Runner, elements of Ex Machina and a touch of A.I, which are drip fed into the slow burn narrative. Beyond the high school dynamics which go some way to isolating break out star Helena Howard, Hardwicke takes advantage of Quibi’s framing technology to enhance that sense of adolescent claustrophobia.
There are abstract diversions which confront the darker side of technology and everything remains unnervingly low key. Although much of the first three episodes is unpacking narrative, establishing character and determining threat nothing feels rushed. Show runner and co-writer Jeffrey Lieber who helped bring Lost to life, sketches a near future high school environment peppered with synthetic hall monitors and fickle adolescent friendships.
Elsewhere Don Cheadle and Emily Mortimer really dial back their performances in line with the overall tone, which lends an apparent normality to proceedings. Only as his teenage daughter begins going through some changes does Cheadle’s father figure speak above a low murmur. That emotional repression which defines a man in mourning exposes the lack of a maternal figure in the family unit.
As guidance counsellor and personal psychologist Mortimer is the surrogate as Howard seeks emotional support outside of home. Obvious thematic allegories touch on notions of identity, adolescent self-doubt and burgeoning senses of self, alongside a universal need for acceptance. Don’t Look Deeper shares some similarities with the Sophie Turner series Survive in that they both address contemporary issues. Just as Twilight was never really about vampires you can sense Hardwicke subverting mainstream material in the same way here.
With the Quibi platform she is able to take this material and make it even more personal. Tensions are enhanced, drama exemplified and revelations more immediate when the connection between audience and content is so intimate. VFX are used to bring resonance rather than astound whilst providing context, emotional heft and by extension audience satisfaction. Through their mixing and matching of directors, genres and quality content Quibi have made a piece of entertainment worthy of note.
Filled to the brim with twists and turns both expected and otherwise Don’t Look Deeper is intelligent story telling made for truly personal consumption. Titles like this are thought provoking slices of small screen fiction which only illustrate further how passion Jeffrey Katzenberg must be about this long term investment.
Don’t Look Deeper is available from July 27th only on Quibi.