‘The Undoing’ review: top-tier New York mystery from the team behind ‘Big Little Lies’

Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman star as a husband and wife on the brink of disaster

Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman play a married couple in The Undoing, HBO‘s quick-fire miniseries that’s adapted from a 2014 bestseller by Jean Hanff Korelitz. Theirs is a heavyweight pairing, and when the final credits roll, you’ll wish you could spend much more time getting to know them.

Best described as Gone Girl without the sharp social commentary, this murder mystery follows the husband and wife in New York. That’s therapist Grace (Kidman) and her oncologist husband Jonathan Fraser (Grant), whose shared happiness dissolves when Elena Alves (newcomer Matilda De Angelis) enters the fray. Grace is immediately drawn towards Elena, but when a gruesome crime is committed, The Undoing transforms from a gripping drama into a courtroom thriller.

The Undoing
Nicole Kidman reunites with ‘Big Little Lies’ creator David E. Kelly. Credit: HBO

Series boss David E. Kelly previously collaborated with Kidman on Big Little Lies. Here, she is not only joined by Grant, but Édgar Ramírez (American Crime Story) and Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games) too. The latter’s owl-like solemnity helps to build tension, while teenager Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place) shows why he’s one of Hollywood’s rising young stars. Character actor Douglas Hodge (Catastrophe) also pops up for a memorable cameo as a criminal defence lawyer nicknamed ‘The Badger’, which even sounds like something Grant might affectionately dub an assistant in real life.


Now in the autumn of his career, the decorated actor is enjoying something of a renaissance. 2018’s A Very English Scandal earned the 60-year-old Emmy, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations, while Guy Ritchie’s gangster comedy The Gentlemen ensured him continued relevance earlier this year. HBO’s The Undoing provides him a gritty, layered role to sink his teeth into. Simultaneously charming and dangerous, Fraser is the ideal part an aging English rogue.

The Undoing
Hugh Grant continues his late-career renaissance. Credit: HBO

Behind the camera, acclaimed Danish director Susanne Bier (Bird Box, The Night Manager) helms all of the episodes – and turns New York into an icy, gothic landscape that fits perfectly with this secretive set of characters. Revelation after revelation will force you to question everything you think you know about them – even the apparently honest detectives working to uncover the truth. Original music composed by Victor Reyes, Sacha Galperine and Evgueni Galperine also deserves some recognition. The sound of The Undoing has a playful curiosity to it that stops the series from feeling too dark.

All in all, this is a must-watch piece of telly that boasts two of the year’s most compelling leads in Jonathan and Grace. Ideally suited to the limited series format, Korelitz’s book is sure to fly off the shelves with increased speed when fans make it to the end of this adaptation. They’ll just have to unstick themselves from the edge of the sofa first.

‘The Undoing’ premieres on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV on Monday October 26

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