By Randal C. Hill
Mark November 2 in red ink on your calendar. That’s when Netflix begins its four-hour epic “All the Light We Cannot See,” a wartime thriller from Idaho writer Anthony Doerr, whose Pulitzer Prize winning book has sold 15 million copies and been translated into 18 languages.
The Netflix saga captures both the heat and the heart of Doerr’s book, which explores the extraordinary powers of human connection and hope—both concepts difficult to achieve and maintain in World War II Europe. Over the course of a decade, the story spotlight falls primarily on the lives of two young people whose disparate paths through life inexorably collide.
Related: Movie Preview: The Hill
Aria Mia Loberti makes her film debut as Marie-Laure LaBlanc, a blind French girl. Loberti, legally blind herself, says “It is her experience as a blind girl navigating love and loss in a time of war.”
In Doerr’s chronicle, Marie-Laure and her father Etienne LeBlanc (well played by veteran “House” actor Hugh Laurie) flee Paris with a valuable gem after the Nazis invade their hometown. Eventually the pair takes refuge with Marie-Laure’s reclusive uncle, who transmits clandestine radio broadcasts as his contribution to the resistance.
Werner Pfennig (Louis Hoffmann) is a brilliant, sensitive German teenage orphan with a self-taught expertise in radio repair. “What he most connects with,” says Hoffman, “are beautiful things and the truth, and this show provides a huge amount of intimacy.” Pfennig has joined Hitler’s regime under character-crushing pressure and has been sent to locate illegal radio broadcasts and silence those who are sending them. Says Director Shawn Levy, “The character of Werner adds this pure soul being indoctrinated into an evil to which he does not subscribe.”
Director Levy concludes, “This story is both timeless and timely – unabashedly human and emotional. It captures a certain epic scale that we’ve been truly privileged to bring to life.”