There is nothing worse than a series that's not just bad but so bad it fails to evoke a reaction and make an impression - no matter how unpleasant. Close to Home: Murder in the Coalfield is one of those shows. It's so bland, so spiritless, it numbs your senses. Screen this show in a theater and keep an eye on the audience. Chances are, they will appear like corpses. No scene, no shot, no moment leads you to express any emotion. You don't even give the show a shrug. I recently read somewhere that scientists have discovered a Zombie Virus. Were they talking about Close to Home? Do you want to freeze your brain for almost six hours? Well, now you know what to watch.
The red flags are visible from the opening itself. Each episode begins with a portentous voice-over from someone named Martin (Kai Ivo Baulitz), and they are tiresome to your ears. Close to Home is a murder mystery that too a very dull one. A teenage girl is found dead, and two police officers, Maik (Misel Maticevic) and Annalena (Odine Johne) do the investigation. Apart from that, the series brings up climate change through visuals (the landscape is sandy and dusty) and some young characters, like Jackie (Ella Lee), Maik's daughter. The latter's concerns about planet earth are handled superficially at best. Its function? Be a plot device, mainly for the last episode.
Since this is a murder mystery, we unsurprisingly have one of those creepy-looking figures who first becomes a suspect and is later found innocent. In Close to Home, that character is Oliver (Lucas Gregorowicz). Turns out, there is a traumatic incident in his past. But we are not shocked when we learn specific details regarding that incident. Nothing really matters in Close to Home, though that doesn't stop it from presenting itself with utmost seriousness. The characters speak as if the fate of humanity rests on their shoulders, and the camera observes the events with a cold detachment. After displaying a pompous attitude for much of its runtime, the series suddenly becomes cheery and slaps a "happy ending" sticker on its body. Everything about that happily-ever-after rings false. The drastic change in tone makes the final few minutes stick out like a sore thumb.
Close to Home is clumsily stitched together. Scenes like the one where André (Marc Hosemann) teaches a kid how to shoot a gun or where the same kid is with someone who's "soft like a bed" seem forcefully and awkwardly inserted. When the characters talk about someone we have not seen before, the series shows us that particular character through brief flashbacks. It's a weird choice (and not gracefully executed) that only makes the whole experience jarring.
The actors merely deliver lines fed to them. There is no chemistry or sense of closeness between them. They don't seem to exist in the same frame together. Annalena and Jannick's (Jacob Matschenz) romance is contrived and unconvincing, and their kiss is devoid of genuine passion. Johne's eyes and mannerisms show glimpses of spark, but the series suppresses any feelings of exuberance.
The killer's identity is nothing to write home about. You can say the same about the whole show. Close to Home is just another underwhelming "content" dumped on the ever-expanding library of Netflix. As long as the creators consider their work "content," we will only get more forgettable shows like Close to Home. The agenda nowadays is "quantity over quality." Streaming services like Netflix throw a slew of "content" at us in a desperate bid to attract more viewers.
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