TV: A Nearly Normal Family

Somewhere between prestige drama and stereotypical Lifetime Movie lies A Nearly Normal Family, another recent Nordic import on Netflix. Set in Lund, Sweden, the story revolves around the small, dysfunctional Sandell family. The family’s troubles originate with a sexual assault on fifteen-year-old daughter Stella (Alexandra Karlsson Tyrefors), who, under the advice of her cynical lawyer mother Ulrika (Lo Kauppi), does not report the crime. This happens despite the misgivings of her father Adam (Björn Bengtsson), a priest. Four years later, Stella appears to have moved on with her life—until, shockingly, she comes under suspicion for the murder of an attractive young suitor named Chris Olsen (Christian Fandango Sundgren). The investigation and subsequent trial slowly erode the fragile façade of an outwardly upstanding family, especially once the parents—separately and ineffectively—move to obstruct the police investigation.

There’s nothing wrong with A Nearly Normal Family, except perhaps that there’s nothing particularly outstanding about it. At a tight six episodes, it establishes the family baseline effectively before casting it under stress, ramping a reasonable mystery with a solidly executed multiple-timeline structure. Deliberately, that mystery runs subservient to the family drama, which is effectively tailored to illustrate the insidious hold of rape culture, and how even its victims—out of sheer psychological survival instinct—may unintentionally perpetuate it. This important theme isn’t always elevated by the proceedings to much more than an issues-driven message piece, which gives it an occasional “special episode” feel. But it’s well constructed, earnestly intentioned, and uniformly well performed, with Tyrefors in particular standing out in the crucial role.

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