Everyone here might know me as the Literature Critic of the blog but those who have been following my reviews will know that I intended to share reviews of movies, dramas/series and also some content from India (my country). Though I have watched quite some content since my last review of the show “Maid,” I just didn’t feel that compulsion to talk about most of them; the select few I did like are still on my ever growing to-review list. However, I recently watched the Danish Netflix limited series, “The Chestnut Man” and just couldn’t wait to pen my thoughts about it.
“The Chestnut Man” can be classified as a thriller/police-procedural with a slight neo-noir mood. It is the second Danish series produced by Netflix and it has been based on the book of the same name written by Søren Sveistrup. The story is mostly set in Copenhagen and begins with gruesome murders occurring in a peaceful, laid-back farm, during 1987. The story then cuts back to the present, where we follow Detective Naia Thulin (Danica Curcic), her new partner Mark Hess (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard), the Danish minister of social affairs, Rosa Hartung (Iben Dorner), and her family. Hartung is just getting back to work, having lost her daughter Kristine to an abduction-murder a year back. Kristine is presumed dead, though there is no body, and that assumption is based on the confession of a man who says he did it.
Detective Thulin is called in to investigate a gruesome murder of a middle-aged single mother, who has had her hand cut, with a chestnut man left at the scene of murder. Thulin, along with her partner, suspects the victim’s boyfriend of one year, as she senses something is not right with him. She, along with her team, tries to gather evidence that can convict him or help them find the killer. Strangely, things take a turn when another murder occurs in a few days and in the same manner, with both hands cut and a chestnut man left there too. But the strangest thing is that the chestnut men have Kristine’s fingerprint on them.
Meanwhile, Rosa starts getting threatening mail and her car gets vandalized as well. Though she doesn’t take it seriously initially, she is forced to acknowledge that someone might be out to get her. On another front, knowing about Kristine’s fingerprints kindles both her and her husband’s hope that their daughter might be alive. The story travels between these seemingly disconnected events, with detectives Thulin and Hess doing their best to make sense of the various trails left by the killer and find him. Who is he? Is Kristine still alive? I say, watch the show and find the answers to these questions.
The biggest challenge with making a thriller/police procedural these days is that audiences have become numb to the genre. But this show, although it is a fairly typical crime procedural, stands apart. The story is cleverly written and it has been adapted to the screen in an engaging manner. There is not one instance where I got bored. The screenplay seamlessly travels through the different storylines, intriguing the viewer at precise junctures, all the while titillating us with the main mystery element of the story — the state of Kristine. There are a couple of red herrings — not very convincing — nevertheless interesting enough to capture our imagination.
The various prominent characters have a rich characterizations. Thulin is a present-day single mother struggling to balance her career and her role as a mother. Hess lost his family in a tragic accident and is still trying to come to terms with it. Rosa oscillates between moving forward with her life and not able to do it due to the guilt she carries about not being there for her daughter. Motherhood and what it means to be a mother, is the central axis from which the story revolves.
There is a gruesome and dark tone to the story but it is not too overwhelming. The show is a compulsive, interesting thriller which managed to engage my attention while providing clever entertainment. And I was definitely surprised by the killer’s identity. This is another well-made show from Netflix which should not be missed — particularly if you are a lover of mystery and police investigative thrillers.
The Chestnut Man gets 8 out of 10 stars.