A classic whodunnit with a twist

21 December 2020

The Undoing stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant as the wealthy and charismatic Dr Grace and Dr Jonathan Fraser, the perfect couple living the perfect life on the Upper East Side. Grace is a clinical psychologist with her own private practice, and her husband is a thriving paediatric oncologist. They share a bright and emotionally intelligent son, Henry (Noah Jupe), who attends New York’s most elite private school. Large donations are given to this prestigious school by Henry’s grandfather Franklin Reinhart (Donald Sutherland), an old school legend who holds power and persuasion. 

One evening, an unthinkable tragedy strikes this poised social dynamic when there is a shocking event, and Jonathan disappears. His disappearance means this seemingly perfect bubble pops faster than anyone can imagine. We are pulled down a rabbit hole of inner turmoil and secrets, with more questions than answers. 

Panic sets in for Grace as Henry is pulled out of school, and Franklin tries to instil some form of order. Alongside this a close lawyer friend, a rambunctious detective and an overtly in-tuned artist enmesh themselves in the Frasers’ societal wealth, private skeletons and biological debris. 

As a clinical psychologist, Grace has infectious and desirable privilege. She is skilled at what she does, and strides to have balance in every avenue of her life. But when her Art meets, not imitates, Life, things become messy. This horrific tragedy changes everything overnight, and the client group Grace works with becomes somewhat of a mirror image of her own personal demons coming to light.

As we watch Grace battle with herself through the racing pace of her inner thoughts, the audience is asked if these are confrontations of her own memories, flashbacks or phantasies? Or are they  someone else’s? Grace is positioned in self-doubt, confusion and paralysis. Who can she trust, and who should trust her? And ultimately, can she trust herself – is she as skilled at understanding others as she thought she was? 

With all this prestige, it dawns on you that at some point this family should feed into that stereotypical pretentious,  entitled and obnoxious category, but this doesn’t happen. We are drawn to them, on this mysterious rollercoaster, which concurs with real human emotion; improbable blame, pushing the boundaries of truth telling, and enigmatic thinking. 

Overall, this classic whodunit with a psychological twist of nature versus nurture, and a clinician’s ultimate fear of ‘getting it wrong’, will keep you hooked and entertained. With small gems planted and plotted along the way, this will make you appreciate when, not if, you revisit it for the second time.

Reviewed by Dr Drusilla Joseph, BSc (Hons), CPsychol, Counselling Psychologist at EPUT (NHS); E: [email protected], T: @nextfamousface