Home Featured Featured6 Netflix’ Alias Grace, Remarkable in Every Way!

Netflix’ Alias Grace, Remarkable in Every Way!

A picture of the main character of Alias Grace with her head on a pillow, bonnet on, staring straight up at the camera.
The adaptation of Margaret Atwood's novel, Alias Grace.
Netflix' Alias Grace is as the title says, remarkable in every way I can think of.  Margaret Atwood's voice and talent fill this true crime story of the late 19th century with the details of a protagonist no one really knew, and the real person she becomes in the story.  Grace Marks' story begins as she recounts the incidents of her life to psychiatrist, Dr. Simon Jordan.  Grace remembers coming to Canada from Ireland and horrific ship ride where her mother dies.  Grace's father, a despicable drunk, resumes the beatings he gave his wife with Grace as his new victim of…

Alias Grace

Entertainment

"Based on the true story of Grace Marks, a housemaid and immigrant from Ireland who was imprisoned in 1843, perhaps wrongly, for the murder of her employer Thomas Kinnear. Grace claims to have no memory of the murder yet the facts are irrefutable. A decade after, Dr. Simon Jordan tries to help Grace recall her past."

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Netflix’ Alias Grace is as the title says, remarkable in every way I can think of.  Margaret Atwood’s voice and talent fill this true crime story of the late 19th century with the details of a protagonist no one really knew, and the real person she becomes in the story.  Grace Marks’ story begins as she recounts the incidents of her life to psychiatrist, Dr. Simon Jordan.  Grace remembers coming to Canada from Ireland and horrific ship ride where her mother dies.  Grace’s father, a despicable drunk, resumes the beatings he gave his wife with Grace as his new victim of choice, and her life spirals further down into despairing poverty and sexual advances from her father.  Her fortune takes a turn for the better when her father, angry and lazy, finds work for her in a wealthy household in Toronto.  Of course, she must send her wages back to the family, but she escapes the sadness of her life for a while, at least.

Alas, this is not a story of romance in which Grace finds true love in the arms of the son of a wealthy businessman, and becomes mistress of her own beautiful home.  This is a true story, with all the hypocrisy, disillusion and despair there is to find in the world.  A fascinating tale of human nature, Margaret Atwood doesn’t flinch from reporting the truth as she sees it, with a remarkable eye for the light and darkness of the human soul.   And so the adaptation for television, written by Sarah Polley, should be given equal praise.  Ms. Polley’s attention to the language as well as the movement of the story creates a riveting tale you won’t be able to turn away from, though you may try.

A pictures of the beautiful, young Grace Marks sitting in her prison cell illuminated by a stream of light from the barred window. She is dressed in 1840's period clothing.
Grace Marks in prison.

The Meaning

What does it mean to be accused and imprisoned for a crime you cannot remember committing?  What does it mean to suffer mistreatment and assult under an oppressive system run by corrupt men, from which you cannot hope to escape?  What does it mean to understand all of this and still go on living?  Such is the strength of Grace Marks.  While some may believe it is her weakness that makes her forget, if she actually does forget, others might say that it is mental or physical illness that accounts for her amnesia.  Whatever the reason, it is clear that she has much to flee and who can blame her?  And yes, there are implications for our society today in the way in which women are still sexually harassed and assaulted, in the way we are seen through a male lense, in the way we are paid less, in the way our worth is judged by our beauty and adherence to social norms and stereotypes.  “She is a good mother.”  “She is a good girl.”  “She is a beautiful woman who could not have committed that crime!”  “She is a beautiful temptress, of course she committed the crime!”

In the end, Grace Marks is perhaps the wisest woman on earth.  She knows what many of us must instinctually know.  The Tree of Knowledge is a trap.  The truth lies within ourselves, and we hold the only key.

Synopsis from IMDB

“Based on the true story of Grace Marks, a housemaid and immigrant from Ireland who was imprisoned in 1843, perhaps wrongly, for the murder of her employer Thomas Kinnear. Grace claims to have no memory of the murder yet the facts are irrefutable. A decade after, Dr. Simon Jordan tries to help Grace recall her past.”

“Alias Grace is a Canadian-American television miniseries directed by Mary Harron and starring Sarah Gadon. It is based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood and adapted by Sarah Polley. The series consists of six episodes.[1] It premiered on CBC on September 25, 2017, and appeared on Netflix on November 3, 2017.[2][3][4]

In advance of the series premiere, the first two episodes received a preview screening at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival in its Primetime lineup of selected television programming.[5]

The series was the third adaptation of an Atwood novel broadcast on television in 2017, after The Handmaid’s Tale (adapted for Hulu) and Wandering Wenda (adapted for CBC Television’s CBC Kids lineup).[6]

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Melody Stewart is the founder of act.land and President of iactingstudioskc.com. She is a filmmaker in Kansas City.