All happy families are alike, but an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion.’ The famous opening line of Anna Karenina is thematically relevant to arts and culture the world over. Audiences are endlessly fascinated by the vicissitudes of the family unit. As an inherently domestic medium, television has a particularly lively relationship with the family. So it is no surprise that yet another television adaptation of Anna Karenina has appeared. What is curious is that this version (which airs on ABC over the next six weeks) is set in contemporary Melbourne.
Leo Tolstoy’s plot is the scaffolding on which this distinctively Australian family drama is built. After a chance meeting with another man, wife and mother Anna Ivin (Sarah Snook) becomes aware of her dissatisfaction with her seemingly perfect marriage to Xander (Rodger Corser). By the end of the first episode, Anna and young music producer Skeet (Benedict Samuel) have commenced a love affair, which upheaves their immediate families and the community at large.
In the first three episodes, connections are built and severed across Anna’s tight-knit clan. Her brother Kingsley (Daniel Henshall) is caught philandering with the au pair by his wife Dolly (Celia Pacquola). Dolly’s younger sister Kitty (Sophie Lowe) announces her engagement to Skeet, loses his affection, and warms to family friend Peter (Alexander England). Peter, meanwhile, is dealing with his alcoholic brother, played by the ever-amusing Dan Wyllie.
The Beautiful Lie is family-centric, but like Tolstoy’s classic it isn’t exactly family-friendly material. The requisite sex, the abandonment of children, and the central titular deceit are on display across the first three episodes. Before the initial opening credits – an unsubtle collection of images from Anna’s life that flash before our eyes – a voiceover informs the audience of Anna’s inevitable demise. Granted, this is a 150-year old spoiler.
Read more at Australian Book Review.