All the Light We Cannot See is an uplifting and hopeful wartime story, how it compares to the Pulitzer-winning novel


At a time when most of what we watch on television is devoted to ongoing war coverage, you may not want to watch a scripted drama about war – even about the long-ago World War II. Neither, nor any story based on a story by Anthony Doerr. Famous novels. But All the Light We Cannot See the new four-hour Netflix miniseries, is meaningful and electrifying.

The Unforgettable Characters of ‘All the Light We Cannot See

The whole of light hidden from our eyes is described by many different perspectives at different times – all leading to a grand development in which the whole thing somehow comes together. The main characters are played by two young children – a French girl named Marie-Laure and a German boy named Werner. He has become a complete expert in the construction and repair of all radios. The girl is blind, and equally fascinated by radio as she listens to a shortwave broadcast for children every night, hosted by a mysterious ham operator who calls himself the Professor. Marie-Laure is inspired by the professor’s messages of hope in Paris – and in Germany, something similar happens to Werner, who hears the same broadcast from his orphanage before being taken into service by the Nazis.

The Historical Background of ‘All the Light We Cannot See

Ultimately, these central characters are played by much older actors. Werner, played by Lewis Hoffman, is a young teenager sent to Kalyan by the Nazis to hunt down illegal radio operators. Marie-Laure, now dressed as Aria Mia Loberti, fled the city of Paris on foot, suitcase in hand, after the Nazi occupation. She is led by her father Daniel, a museum director, to Mark Ruffalo in smuggling some of the museum’s important and valuable objects. Their journey as refugees eventually takes them to the coastal town of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s uncle Étienne, played by Hugh Laurie, is a member of the French Resistance. In time, Werner is sent there by a young Nazi to hunt down illegal radio operators. And Marie-Laure, discovering the secret location from which the Professor once made his hopelessly promising broadcasts, decides to do the same.

The Impact of World War II on ‘All the Light We Cannot See

When it was published in 2014, Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Can’t See emerged as an unexpected breakout book of the year, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and hitting the New York Times best-seller list. More than 200 weeks passed, and more were sold. Over 15 million copies worldwide. Nearly a decade later, a four-part limited series adaptation of the acclaimed historical epic debuts on Netflix. It weaves together the stories of a blind French girl named Marie-Laure Leblanc and German orphan Werner Pfennig as they face terror and destruction. The story meanders along at its own pace, opening at the height of the Allied liberation of France in 1944 and flashing back to scenes from Marie-Laure and Werner’s respective childhoods.

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