Netflix’s ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ is ‘downright cinematic,’ reviewer says

The exterior of Netflix headquarters is seen in Los Gatos, Calif.
The exterior of Netflix headquarters is seen in Los Gatos, Calif. | Paul Sakuma, Associated Press

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by the same name, “All the Light We Cannot See” will release on Netflix Thursday.

The limited series tells the story of Marie-Laure Leblanc (Aria Mia Loberti), who is a blind French girl during World War II. After Germany invades France, she and her father, Daniel (Mark Ruffalo), go to live with her uncle, Etienne (Hugh Laurie), bringing along an expensive diamond to prevent the Nazis from getting it.

When the two arrive to St. Malo, Leblanc joins her uncle in participating in the French Resistance to Nazi occupation by sending messages using radio broadcasting. And a teenager named Werner (Louis Hofmann) is enlisted by the Nazis to find her and kill her.


“Ladies and gentleman, before I begin my broadcast today, I have to something to say,” Marie-Laure said at the onset of the trailer. “In this time of darkness, of fading cities, I’m trying to remember: Light lasts forever; darkness lasts not even for one second when you turn on the light.”

“I know that broadcasting can get me executed, but I will not be silenced,” Leblanc says.

The limited series is directed by Shawn Levy, who directed “Night at the Museum,” “The Pink Panther,” “The Internship,” “Date Night” and other films, in addition to eight episodes of “Stranger Things.” He also has some acting credits to his name, including in “Cheaper by the Dozen” and Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well: The Short Film.”

“So many period pieces are magnificently crafted, but they feel somewhat austere or emotionally remote,” Levy said in a press release, per Variety. He wanted to make a “beautiful-looking period drama” and “allow audiences to engage with these characters and their humanity.”

The limited series shares the same name of the novel by Anthony Doerr, which won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction as well as the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

“Many qualified producers and writers before me had tried to turn this book into a movie, but it didn’t work out because there was too much story. There’s such a rich tapestry of characters and events in the book, and telling that story in two hours was all but impossible,” Levy said to Netflix, per Indie Wire. “By the time we got the rights, limited series had evolved to become a pedigreed cinematic form that allowed for longer-form storytelling on television.”

Ruffalo, who plays Daniel Leblanc, said that he was “reticent” about returning to Europe to shoot the series, but Levy convinced him to go. “He moved heaven and earth to get me there and really believed in me for the part,” Ruffalo said, per Indie Wire. “What was wonderful was just seeing him fly in that genre, which is something he’d never done before. He knew exactly what he was doing, though.”

‘All the Light We Cannot See’ reviews

Some reviews from “All the Light We Cannot” have been published. Here are key quotes from three reviews.

  • The Hollywood Reporter: “‘All the Light We Cannot See’ has good things going for it, including a radiant lead performance from newcomer Aria Mia Loberti. It’s very nicely shot and James Newton Howard’s swelling score offers no doubt on when you’re supposed to feel things. But its similarity to the book dwindles with almost every passing moment to the point that, by the aforementioned third episode, almost nothing that happens on the screen has any connection to what was on the page.”

  • Paste Magazine: “Loberti, a blind Fulbright scholar who had never done any acting before auditioning for the series, is a revelation — an incredible screen presence who also helped guarantee the authenticity of the series. And beyond the performances, all the sound and visual crafts are strong enough that watching the premiere in a movie theater felt downright cinematic.”

  • Mashable: “The four-part limited series is unable to replicate Doerr’s lyrical prose, resulting instead in some fairly heavy-handed dialogue. However, it more than makes up for that shortcoming with its genuine earnestness and high-quality production, which results in an adaptation that is cinematic and sweet in equal measure.”

‘All the Light We Cannot See’ release date

“All the Light We Cannot See” will be released on Netflix on Nov. 2.

‘All the Light We Cannot See’ trailer