Teresa Palmer, Miranda Otto, and Guy Pearce headline The Clearing, a chilling Australian true crime limited series.
Plot: An emotional and psychological thriller that follows the nightmares of a cult and a woman who’s forced to face the demons from her past in order to stop the kidnapping and coercion of innocent children in the future. The series burrows under the skin and inside the mind, blurring the lines between past and present, reality and nightmare in a truly unnerving way.
Review: We cover a lot of series here at JoBlo.com, but most are produced Stateside. With so many shows out there, it is challenging to pick and choose international productions. Occasionally, a series boasts a cast that is too impressive to pass up. The Clearing, based on a novel by J.P.Pomare and inspired by an actual cult, stars a stellar roster of Australian talent, including Teresa Palmer, Mirando Otto, Guy Pearce, Kate Mulvany, and more. While cultural elements make this series distinctly foreign, it tells a story that will resonate with viewers regardless of which country you come from. With a chilling atmosphere and disturbing subject matter, The Clearing is an unsettling, well-acted, melodramatic thriller.
Supposing you have seen the cryptic trailers for The Clearing, you know the eight-episode limited series focuses on Freya (Teresa Palmer), a single mother who finds herself swept up in the disappearance of a young girl who may have been taken by members of a cult known as The Kindred. Adrienne (Miranda Otto) and Dr. Bryce Latham (Guy Pearce) lead the cult. In a dramatic fashion, the clues that pepper the trailer lead to emotional consequences for all involved. There are buzzwords peppered through the brief preview but not much that connects to provide a glimpse of the narrative of The Clearing. In the three episodes made available for this review, we get a deliberately paced look inside a disturbing faction that brainwashed children and took absolute control of their lives.
The Kindred, inspired by the Australian cult known as The Family, is populated by a small group of adult followers of Adrienne who control a group of children who refer to the cult leader as Mama. The children all have bleached blonde hair cut into bobs, bowls, or shoulder length. At the front of the group is teenager Amy (Julia Savage), tasked with indoctrinating a kidnapped young girl. Amy begins to question the cult and their teachings, leading to a schism in the sect. As the missing girl is searched for and authorities suspect The Kindred may have something to do with it, the leaders begin to take action. The way the cult controls the children is one of the more disturbing elements of the story, including the title act of clearing, which is one of the more haunting crimes in this tale.
While the eight episodes comprising The Clearing were not all available for this review, the first three are a solid set-up for a mystery as engaging as frightening. Teresa Palmer is very good as a single mother haunted by her connection to The Kindred. Palmer portrays Freya as a woman dealing with trauma from her past while feeling the urge to help find the little girl whose disappearance shares a lot with others taken by the cult. Miranda Otto makes for a charismatic and strong cult leader whose roots in the real-life Evelyn Grace Victoria Edwards inspired this character. From her hairstyle to her fashion choices, Adrienne is not what you would expect when thinking of a religious zealot. Equally good is the always-outstanding Guy Pearce. Pearce is a chameleon and inhabits every one of his roles fully. Here, he is more understated than usual. Hunters star Kate Mulvany is chilling as cult member Tamsin while young Julia Savage stands out as young Amy.
The Clearing deviates quite a bit from the novel that inspired it. Series creators Elise McCredie and Matt Cameron use different time periods to showcase how the cult at the center of this story developed into a criminal enterprise while maintaining an aura of unmistakable sadness. Directors Gracie Otto, younger sister of star Miranda Otto, and Jeffrey Walker give us a view inside the Kindred’s compound and life-altering practices that are accentuated by the crimes investigated by the authorities in this story. Because actual events only inspire this series, there is quite a bit more dramatic license taken in telling this story than if it were a truthful retelling. That means several substantial twists make for interesting television. While they may seem obvious once you start watching, they are hidden fairly well.
Overall, The Clearing is well-made, if not overly melodramatic. Because it is rooted in truth, much of the series feels like a Law & Order take on a true crime tale. The hallmarks of the recent true crime trend are present, including sympathetic, realistic characters involved in too-crazy to not be true situations. But, whether it is the Village of the Damned hairstyles on the kids or the far too-on-the-nose twists, The Clearing struggles to overcome a feeling of being there done that. If not for the solid performances from Palmer, Otto, Pearce, Mulvany, and Savage, this would be just another average mystery series. You will be invested in solving this mystery from the outset, even if the big reveal can be seen coming a mile away.
The Clearing premieres on May 24th on Hulu.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/the-clearing-tv-review/