‘All the Light We Cannot See’ reviews round-up: ‘Twee’ WW2 drama is ‘instantly forgettable’

Netflix‘s adaptation of All the Light We Cannot See premieres today!

Set during World War II, the new limited series is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by American author Anthony Doerr.

All the Light We Cannot See tells the story of Marie-Laure Leblanc, a blind French girl taking refuge with her father and reclusive uncle in St. Malo, France and Werner, a brilliant teenager enlisted by Hitler’s regime with an expertise in radio repair.

Together they share a secret connection that will become a beacon of light that leads them through the harrowing backdrop of WWII.

Watch a clip here:

The cast of the four-part period drama features Hugh Laurie (House), Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers), Marion Bailey (The Crown), Andrea Deck (Homeland), and Louis Hofmann (Dark), with newcomer Aria Mia Loberti playing the lead role of Marie-Laure LeBlanc.

Doerr’s much-loved book has been adapted by British screenwriter Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders) and Canadian director Shawn Levy (Stranger Things, Night at the Museum).

Here’s another clip:

All four episodes of All the Light We Cannot See are now streaming on Netflix.

We’d been really looking forward to giving this a watch, but it gives us no pleasure to report that it sounds like this one is a tremendous disappointment, with critics all giving it 2 stars or less.

Here’s a selection of spoiler-free reviews to help you decide if you’d like to watch the series:


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 … and almost every change makes the material louder, clumsier and less emotionally rich.” – The Hollywood Reporter


“Second World War saga is a shonky, star-studded dud … The show could be forgiven some shonkiness and self-indulgence if the central chemistry between Marie and Werner was coherent.” ★★ – The Independent


Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight has adapted the hit Second World War novel with all the subtlety of ’Allo, ’Allo! Prepare for twee acting, a woeful script and accents that get vurse and vurse…

“It is terrible. The acting is almost uniformly bad … All nuance is lost, all thought has been excised and it feels both drearily slow and stupidly rushed.” ★★ – The Guardian


“Netflix reduce a Pulitzer-winner to a trite, turgid mess … It’s epic, it’s starry… and it’s as subtle as a doodlebug. Steven Knight and Shawn Levy have coated Anthony Doerr’s masterpiece in toffee.” ★★ – The Telegraph


“Whatever was transcendent or lyrical about Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel gets lost in translation from page to screen in this hackneyed and surface-level adaptation from screenwriter Steven Knight and director Shawn Levy.

“Any insight into the human condition is traded away in favor of underdeveloped characters who speak in on-the-nose metaphors … Their vision for Doerr’s novel is shallow, messy, and, most unfortunately, instantly forgettable.” ★ – RogerEbert.com


“A more extended story may have enriched its protagonists beyond figureheads for innocence, integrity or loving parenthood. In its current form, All the Light We Cannot See calls on viewers to acknowledge the complex humanity of others while failing to depict much itself.” – Variety


“An unfortunately flat Netflix adaptation … It’s the kind of series that, by premise alone really, is all rather poetic and metaphorical. But the series suffers from bouts of lengthy dialogue and discussions of things we should really be seeing for ourselves.” ★★ – Radio Times


“When it gives you a chance to catch your breath, All The Light We Cannot See can be wonderfully transporting. If only it would let the audience bask in the atmosphere of any of its settings for a while before thrusting us backward or forward in time, it might stick to the ribs a bit more.” – AV Club


All the Light We Cannot See is streaming exclusively on Netflix from Thursday 2 November.

Anthony Doerr’s novel All the Light We Cannot See is available on Amazon.