Photo credit (c) Netflix

“You” Netflix series based on Caroline Kepnes book

By one more step | book and film | 30 Oct 2021


It’s hard to dislike the protagonist of the story, a pensive New York bookstore manager Joe Goldberg, as he walks through his seemingly normal but mentally and emotionally overloaded life pondering about things most of us are deeply concerned about, from our deepest fears and broken hearts to self-realization and the universal human need to be accepted, forgiven, and loved.

The film is dark, but also humorous. Its slightly  dysphoric atmosphere makes me think of the gloomy depths of the human psyche and the many dark and dirty spots that are hidden in plain sight in the fabric of our so-called “normal” social existence.

“You” is an emotionally comfy series that are also filled with huge amounts of absolute insanity — the creators have managed to combine these opposites into a weird cocktail of socially unacceptable but deeply heartfelt gains, failures, and truths.

The immoral acts of central characters start to feel “normal” as the story progresses because we are guided through “You” by Joe’s inner dialogue... and Joe is one terrifying but strangely loveable character who we, the watchers, feel inclined to associate with.

Lover of good books and authentic people, Joe is a regular person and, simply put, a good guy. But you might have already guessed that despite all his good qualities and noble intentions some really bad things just can’t stop happening around him.

How bad, exactly? I won’t disclose too many details as not to spoil the story, so let’s just say this: people die. Many people. And some of them get to go rather bloody.

A familiar, widely used phenomena — our controversial hero does things that should be reserved for villains, yet he grows on us and we find him loveable. We WANT him to succeed, to get better, to survive, to finally find his peace of mind and heart, and to NOT get caught.

Some viewers might suggest that Joe suffers form a really bad form of sociopathy, but his im/moral abnormalities are somehow familiar and acceptable. Oh, no, in real life most of us would definitely run... But when analyzing something that’s happening on the screen we can’t help but wonder — what if Joe with all his dilemmas, problems, and fucked up ways of “solving” them really is onto something genuine? It’s just that his ways of acting are too impulsive, too... well, psychopathic.

Many can relate to how he thinks and feels even while being disgusted by the things he does. The film is built in such a way that we are led to feel sympathy for this very disturbed individual as he keeps unraveling the many stupid wrongs that exist in our social world.

The series revolves around the things we all are familiar with. It’s full of cultural cliches that are being criticized along with the hundreds of  socially prediscribed modes of consuct.

The main characters question their behavioral patterns, childhood traumas, adult desires, their places in the fabric of life, and their need for true love.

It’s not just Joe, but the others we can relate to. Each of them speaks to us from the screen and we go, “Oh, but that’s what I do! That’s how it feels to ME, I’ve been through this as well!” Or “Wow, that’s exactly my mother (father, child, an acquaintance, best friend)!”

I can’t say that these series became some kind of a revelation or an eye opener to me. The film feels more like a nice treat to an overwhelmed, stressed out mind. Watching Joe and others on the screen made me think of the many wrongs in my own life that could be even MORE wrong but turned out kind of okay... or maybe even had to happen in order to take me where I am now, to shape me into what I have been growing into up to this life point.

I don’t know how close this film is following the book as I just started reading it. I am not sure if I will go on reading to the end anyway. Somehow me watching the series came along with reading Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”. In my mind, these two go together.

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“Happiness. That’s what books smells like. Happiness. That’s why I always wanted to have a book shop. What better life than to trade in happiness?” – Sarah MacLean in The Rogue Not Taken

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