‘A Nearly Normal Family’ is a well-cast, compelling thriller that delves into gender-based violence

Christian Fandango and Alexandra Tyrefors as Stella in “A Nearly Normal Family”. Picture: Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

Christian Fandango and Alexandra Tyrefors as Stella in “A Nearly Normal Family”. Picture: Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

Published Dec 4, 2023


Foreign-language offerings with subtitles can sometimes be off-putting. But there are some real gems to be found if you look past the language barrier.

Honestly, it’s no different to offerings like “Squid Game”, “Money Heist” or “Fauda” for example. They were hit shows across the globe.

Netflix’s new six-part thriller, “A Nearly Normal Family”, is worth watching. Trending as one of the Top 10 SA shows, I enjoyed the series, which is based on MT Edvardsson’s novel of the same name.

Just to clarify, this isn’t based on a true story.

At the heart of the story is Stella Sandell (Alexandra Karlsson Tyrefors). When we first meet her, she’s a high school pupil looking forward to a summer camp outing.

Her high-powered lawyer mother, Ulrika (Lo Kauppi), and her priest father, Adam (Björn Bengtsson), drop her off at the bus that is transporting the pupils on their trip, and wish her well.

While on the trip, Stella is drawn to Robin Kjellander ( Christoffer Willén), a rather attractive coach at the summer camp, and invites him for a swim. But things snowball from some harmless flirting to kissing and Stella being raped.

She’s devastated by the incident. More so, when her parents, on the advice of her mother, decide not to lay charges, for fear of her being ostracised and being put through hell with the legal process, with no guarantee of a successful prosecution.

Several years later, Stella’s relationship with her parents is strained. She has a part-time job at a restaurant and dreams of travelling the world.

Björn Bengtsson as Adam in “A Nearly Normal Family”. Picture: Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

But then she meets Christoffer “Chris” Olsen (Christian Fandango Sundgren), a 32-year-old entrepreneur, and her plans are put on the back burner.

Her BFF Amina Basic (Melisa Ferhatovic), who is an aspiring lawyer, isn’t comfortable with how the relationship is changing Stella. And it creates some friction between the two.

While Stella navigates the challenges of adulthood and dating, her parents are going through setbacks in their marriage, too.

Everyone’s lives are thrown into a tailspin when Stella is arrested for Chris’s murder. And her past inevitably surfaces as well.

Adam, in his interview with the investigating officer, gives Stella a time-stamped alibi. As a priest, his decision to bend the truth doesn’t sit well with him.

But his desperation to protect his daughter knows no bounds.

Ulrika, who knows the law best, takes things a little further. Before the police turn up at their home with a search warrant, she hides the bloody clothes that Stella came home with the night before.

She also takes her cellphone, for fear of any damaging evidence being on it.

Lo Kauppi as Ulrika in “A Nearly Normal Family”. Picture: Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

While Adam and Ulrika do their best to help Stella, who is taken into custody, the cracks in their marriage widen. It is compounded by Ulrika’s father giving the caregivers at the facility he is in, a very hard time.

While the prosecutor builds a case to put Stella behind bars, Ulrika conducts an investigation of her own, which leads to a startling truth.

“A Nearly Normal Family” starts slow. But it quickly hooks the audience with a lot of red herrings, leaving them to question Stella’s innocence.

The genius of the series is the deft direction. Director Per Hanefjord skilfully weaves in plenty of doubt with how he stitches together the events of that fateful night.

And Stella’s past underpins the unfolding drama.

The cast delivers sublime performances with their nuanced role-play.

The series takes the audience on an emotional roller-coaster where frustration is as much a factor as the desperation for the truth.

Karlsson Tyrefors deserves credit for how she executed her role, which demands an ambiguity that forces the audience to question her innocence.

A note to viewers, though, the gender-based violence narrative can be triggering.

∎ “A Nearly Normal Family” is streaming on Netflix.