City of Newton, Massachusetts, an affluent suburban area, a family of three. The head of the family is Andy Barber (Chris Evans), who works as an assistant district attorney. Andy is building a successful career, his superiors trust him. Andy’s wife Laurie (Michelle Dockery) works at a children’s rehabilitation center and is valued and respected. They have a teenage son, Jacob (Jayden Martell), who goes to a local school.
At some point, a terrible tragedy occurs: Jacob’s classmate Ben Rifkin is found dead in a local park – he was stabbed several times. Andy Barber begins to investigate this murder and finds out that a certain Leonard Patz (Daniel Henshall), a registered pedophile who has served time in prison, lives in their area, but at the same time it turns out that the children from the class on social networks are directly accusing Jacob Barber of killing Ben, moreover, there are facts that look very suspicious: there are Jacob’s fingerprints on Ben’s clothes, Ben bullied Jacob at school, and Jacob bought a knife via the Internet and demonstrated this knife at school.
Of course, Andy is immediately removed from the investigation, and the life of this prosperous family turns into a uniform hell: this story is covered in detail by the local media, journalists are constantly on duty at their house, the family now cannot just go to a restaurant – everyone points at them and whispers .
Then Andy begins to conduct his own investigation: he definitely needs to get evidence of his son’s innocence, he does not believe that his son is capable of this.
The script of this mini-series is based on the novel of the same name by William Landay: the author himself worked for a long time as a forensic scientist, so he is well versed in the topic. The project was funded by the Apple TV+ streaming service, the showrunner of the series Mark Bomback wrote scripts for many famous films, the director of the series is the Norwegian Morten Tyldum, who directs the TV series “The Double” and “Jack Ryan”, the films “Headhunters” and “Passengers”. Starring – world celebrities: Chris Evans, who needed to somehow change his image of Captain America, and Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary from Downton Abbey, Rosalind Pearson from The Gentlemen). Incidentally, with Jaden Martell playing Jacob, Chris Evans recently starred in Knives Out, where Martell, interestingly, played a 16-year-old right-wing internet troll named Jacob.
Despite some detective component, this is not a detective, and not a judicial procedural, as some reviews say, although several court sessions are also shown here. This is such a psychological drama that deals with the behavior of the parents of a teenage child who is accused of a heinous crime. How do they perceive all this, how confident are they that their son could not have done anything like this, what actions they will take so that he is not convicted and to find out who was the killer after all.
The series has two timelines. At the very beginning, they will show a court session in which Andy Barber himself is the defendant in a jury trial, and he is interrogated by another assistant district attorney, Neil Logadis (Pablo Schreiber), who himself studied with Barber at one time. And later we learn that the same Neil Logadis was a party to the prosecution in the jury trial in the Jacob case.
After that, the action is transferred to ten months ago, when this murder happened, after which the life of the Barber family rapidly rushed downhill. And they will still return to that very court session, but for what reason it took place at all – the audience will find out only in the final episode.
All this is staged spectacularly: gloomy tones, appropriate music, emphasizing the depressive state of people who have fallen into a similar story, well, it all looks quite exciting, especially since it is very difficult to guess where it all will lead. But, however, I note that a certain slowness of the series at some points turns into some protractedness: it seemed to me that if all these events were put into six episodes, it would turn out much more dynamic.
What’s with acting? I didn’t like Chris Evans as Andy Barber. No, of course, this is not Captain America, but somehow he was not convincing in his experiences. But this is the strongest shock for the father, whose son is accused of such a crime. It also bothered me terribly that all these crazy days and weeks Barber went through with a perfect haircut like from “Tony and Guy”, and his beard was impeccably groomed, as if he visited a barbershop every other day. Against the background of his character’s generally quite dim emotions, such attention to his own appearance noticeably spoiled the impression. It seemed to me that this role required an actor who could show a completely different level of emotional involvement, and Evans almost did not succeed, although the material was winning. Here in the film “Knives Out” he had a noticeably brighter character.
Michelle Dockery in the role of Laurie liked noticeably more. But there and according to the plot, Lori had most of the various psychological torments, because after the beginning of this whole story, she remembered some frightening oddities in her son’s behavior and now she doesn’t know what to think about it at all: it was such an accident or she missed frightening signs that something is wrong with the child.
Actor Jaden Martell for the role of Jacob, apparently, was selected according to the principle of external similarity: he really looks like the son of Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery, and he also has a slightly sinister appearance. However, this is the most unrevealed character in the picture, and purely scripted: we have no idea what is going on in his head at all, why he visits such strange and unpleasant communities.
No, of course, it is clear that if the audience were allowed to look into Jacob’s head, it would kill all the intrigue, but nevertheless, at least somehow, at least something about him, but – no, nothing of the kind is revealed. Claims, I emphasize, refer specifically to the script, Jaden himself, in my opinion, played well and looked quite natural in a couple of emotional episodes.
Of the bright roles, Cherry Jones, who played the lawyer Joanna Klein, who defended Jacob, is still very good. It’s like nothing special, but a very bright image, well remembered. And you believe that she is a very knowledgeable and very professional lawyer.
The brilliant Jay Kay Simmons appears here as Andy’s father, Billy Barber. Billy is a murderer and rapist and was given a life sentence when Andy was only six years old. What happens is that Andy, although he really doesn’t want to do it, has to start to somehow communicate with his father, and there all the episodes with Simmons were great, especially towards the end of the series.
And I have to mention Patrick Fischler (how gorgeous he is in the Happy series) and Megan Byrne (I don’t know her at all), who played the parents of the murdered Ben Rifkin here. They have several small episodes in the series, but they instantly overshadowed the entire six-hour role of Chris Evans in terms of emotionality and amazingly realistically played boundless grief of these people.
We will not talk about the finale in this part of the review, so as not to spoil the impression for those who have not watched the series yet. I can only say that I was disappointed to a certain extent with the ending, but that’s because I would have done it all differently – from a scenario point of view. Apparently, this explained my disappointment (for sure, some of the audience will also experience it), but after analyzing what we were shown, I must say that such an interpretation and such an ending also have a right to exist, so if initially I thought that the ending was leaked, then later I decided to withdraw this charge and ask the jury to disavow my original statement.
Here is a mini-series. Did you like it? Yes, in general, I liked it, although without enthusiasm. Worth watching? In my opinion, quite worthy. But Chris Evans was not at all impressed here, and this is the main character of the series (in the book, by the way, the whole story is told on behalf of his character).
Defending Jacob movie review
Director: Mark Bomback Cast: Chris Evans, Michelle Dockery, Jaeden Martell, Cherry Jones, Pablo Schreiber, Betty Gabriel, Sakina Jaffrey, Daniel Henshall, Ben Taylor, Jordan Alexa Davis, Patrick Fischler, Megan Byrne, Jay Kay Simmons
Series, USA, 2020, 45 min. Psychological drama, 1 season, 8 episodes