“The Crowded Room” is a limited series on Apple TV that attempts to delve into the complexities of mental illness through the story of Danny Sullivan, portrayed by Tom Holland.
Drawing inspiration from films like “A Beautiful Mind” and shows like “Euphoria,” the series sets out to tackle important themes but ultimately falls short in its execution.
With lackluster writing, inconsistent cinematography, and a heavy-handed score, “The Crowded Room” fails to deliver a meaningful exploration of mental health issues.
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A Promising Premise Hindered by Shallow Storytelling
Loosely adapted from Daniel Keyes’ nonfiction novel “The Minds of Billy Milligan,” the plot follows Danny Sullivan, a traumatized teenager living in upstate New York during the summer of 1979.
The series touches upon Danny’s troubled home life and his struggles at school, but fails to fully develop these aspects, leaving the viewer with shallow characterizations.
The inclusion of childhood flashbacks and the loss of Danny’s twin brother, Adam, adds some emotional depth but is not explored to its full potential.
Unconvincing Characterization and Tropes
The series introduces several supporting characters, including Danny’s friends Johnny (Levon Hawke) and Mike (Sam Vartholomeos), as well as his new neighbor, Ariana (Sasha Lane).
Unfortunately, the character development falls short, and their motivations and backgrounds remain underdeveloped. Doctor Rya Goodwin (Amanda Seyfried), who attempts to understand Danny’s condition, is characterized through trite feminist tropes, lacking the depth and nuance necessary for a compelling performance.
Solid Performances Amidst Mediocre Writing
Despite the shortcomings of the writing, Tom Holland and Amanda Seyfried deliver commendable performances. Holland brings pathos and effort to his portrayal of Danny Sullivan, showcasing glimpses of his potential as an actor. Seyfried, while limited by her character’s underdeveloped arc, manages to convey emotions effectively through subtle nuances in her acting. However, these performances alone are not enough to salvage the series from its overall mediocrity.
Uninspired Direction and Cinematography
“The Crowded Room” suffers from a lack of visual consistency and uninspired direction. The lighting and staging choices feel outdated, reminiscent of early 2000s productions, which is peculiar considering the project’s origins in the 1990s.
The cinematography fails to create a cohesive visual style, and the disconnect between the actors and the B-roll footage of 1970s New York is jarring, further detracting from the viewing experience.
Missed Opportunities and Pacing Issues
The series stretches over 10 hours, yet it takes too long for the story to fully reveal and heighten its stakes. The pacing is sluggish, and the audience is left waiting for meaningful developments to occur.
Additionally, the series attempts to address social issues such as the failures of the criminal justice system and the struggles of vulnerable groups. However, these themes are undermined by poor dialogue, leaving the intended messages diluted and ineffective.
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“The Crowded Room” is a disappointing attempt at exploring mental illness on screen. Despite the commendable performances by Tom Holland and Amanda Seyfried, the series suffers from shallow storytelling, unconvincing characterizations, and uninspired direction. It fails to provide the necessary depth and nuance to truly address the complexities of mental health.
While there are glimpses of a potentially impactful story, the overall execution falls short, resulting in a forgettable and ultimately skippable viewing experience.