‘The Innocent’ review: Spanish adaptation of Harlan Coben thriller works better than the novel

A still from ‘The Innocent’  

In an interview with this writer, Harlan Coben spoke of the pros of moving his stories out of the US in the adaptations. As part of the multi-million dollar deal with Netflix, 14 of Coben’s novels are to be adapted. After the gender-swapped The Stranger, and moving The Woods from the US to Poland, comes The Innocent, with the action again moving out of the States, this time to Barcelona and Marbella.

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In the same interview, Coben talks of his fascination for putting an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances and the fact that the past is never quite buried. The Innocent features both these Coben favourites. Mateo’s (Mario Casas) life was just beginning, when in the process of breaking up a brawl, he kills a young man, Dani. Mateo is sent to prison for four years for accidental homicide. After serving his sentence, Mateo tries to rebuild his life. He works in his brother’s legal firm and falls in love with a beautiful woman, Olivia (Aura Garrido). Nine years later, it looks as if Mateo is emerging from the shadow—he marries Olivia, they are expecting their first child and are looking to buy their first home. That is when a strange photo from Olivia’s phone drags Mateo into a maelstrom of suspicion, violence and danger.

The Innocent
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 8
  • Director: Oriol Paulo
  • Language: Spanish
  • Starring: Mario Casas, Alexandra Jiménez, Aura Garrido, José Coronado, Martina Gusmán, Juana Acosta, Gonzalo de Castro, Ana Wagener, Miki Esparbé, Xavi Sáez, Anna Alarcón, Susi Sánchez
  • Storyline: An ex-con is trying to rebuild his life when the past comes calling

Simultaneously, a driven police officer with a troubled past (naturally), Ortiz (Alexandra Jiménez) investigates a nun’s seeming suicide. The nun (Juana Acosta) seems to have been leading a double life. The more Ortiz digs into her life, the more questions she has. What is the nun’s connection with a strip club in Marbella and its appalling, soulless owner, Aníbal (Miki Esparbé)? What interest does Teo Aguilar (José Coronado), an officer of the National Police Force, have in the proceedings?

Meanwhile, the more Mateo finds out, the more confused he gets. He is assisted by an investigator, Zoe (Anna Alarcón). His wife is obviously hiding some big secret and there are some very scary people after her including Saez (Xavi Sáez) the muscle for Aníbal, who is as unsavoury as his boss and a retired policeman, Gallardo (Santi Pons). How does Olivia know the stripper Kimmy Dale (Martina Gusmán)? Mateo has also kept in touch with Dani’s mum, Sonia (Ana Wagener), who has forgiven Mateo, much to her husband Jaime’s (Gonzalo de Castro) rage and disgust.

Director Oriol Paulo, who shares writing credits with Jordi Vallejo and Guillem Clua has created a thrilling narrative, providing the right amount of detail in perfect doses. At no point do you feel the story is bogged down by exposition or that it is too muddled to follow. A typical noir with dollops of darkness, sordidness, sin and shame, The Innocent is one of those adaptations that work better than the novel.

These successful transplantations, while providing valuable local flavour, prove crime is truly universal. Now all we have to do is wait for a Coben adaptation set in India.

The Innocent is currently streaming on Netflix


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Printable version | Jun 18, 2021 4:32:56 PM |

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