The quest for a legendary creature is a pretext for an exhausting Victorian romance, mired in its Austenian clichés.
Once again, Apple TV+ has pulled out all the stops to serve up its super-slick new in-house creation, a luxury mini-series, produced with care and beautiful means, in breathtaking settings. An esoteric tale, which enjoys stunning photography and is full of sumptuous shots.
By adapting the eponymous novel by Sarah Perry, The Essex Serpent takes us back to Victorian England to follow the emancipation of Cora Seaborne, a young and pretty widow from London, passionate about science, who decides to settle in the county of Essex to investigate a legendary creature: a gigantic sea serpent , which terrorizes the nearby village. Along the way, she will fall in love with the handsome local pastor… already married.
The quest for a myth serves here as an allegory for self-discovery, over the course of a great impossible romance, ostensibly nurtured by Jane Austen. Cora is inspired by these great female characters of British literature, Elizabeth Bennet’s way ofPride and Prejudice. Intelligent, spiritual and determined to emancipate herself from this world of men after the death of her abusive husband, she has the ambition to establish herself as a feminist heroine. Except that Claire Danes struggling to give it body. Multiplying grimacing expressions and fleeting glances, the American actress never seems to know which foot to dance on.
Despite one of the very solid supporting roles and in particular the astonishing Clémence Poésy, perfect as a pastor’s wife, her languorous tango with Tom Hiddleston sounds too contrived to move. A pompous, pumping romance, not helped by exhaustingly slow storytelling. Without rhythm, without enthusiasm, this very beautiful snake ends up suffocating us.