"People don't realize this, but loneliness—is underrated," said Joseph-Gordon Levitt in 500 Days of Summer. Well, Frederick Backman would beg to differ. Author of the highly sweet and filled with contagious kindness debut novel 'A Man Called Ove', Backman's books are like a warm hug that makes us feel vulnerable, but never weak. They refuse to give in to the negative emotions of loneliness, depression, jealousy, anger and hate. The emotions are present for sure, but Backman's characters are resilient and living examples of love, hope, happiness, forgiveness, and kindness. His latest novel Anxious People is about a lot of things, but at its core, it is about creeping loneliness and its highly sought after rival, companionship. Director Felix Herngen does a neat job of capturing it in the new Netflix limited-series Anxious People.
Just one day before New Year's Eve, a poorly planned bank robbery goes horribly wrong when the robber apparently walks into a cashless bank. He is then forced to take six people hostage, when chased by the father-son duo of police officers, Jack and Jim. He holds them hostage at an open house. Out of the six people, two are old women, Estelle and Anna-Lena, one is an old man named Roger, (who proactively does half of the robber's job, as if helping him), one pregnant woman Julia and her wife Ro, one particularly anxious woman named Zarah and a man, Lennart, who is wearing a rabbit costume. When the robber's demands of seven large pizzas and a show of fireworks are met, the hostages are released. However, there were six hostages and one robber and yet seven hostages came out. Jack, Jim's son, suspects that the robber has to be one of them and interrogates everyone.
While interrogating them, Jack realises that each of the six hostages are hiding something and lying to him and the seventh one is already missing. Nobody gives any kind of description of the robber. Nobody among the hostages, except the couples Roger and Anna-Lena, and Julia and Ro, knew each other. But after the hostage situation, they all start to meet each other and something seems really fishy. The audience is kept in the dark, guessing, till the very end. You can form any number of theories and none of them will come true. This is the magical and yet real world of Frederick Backman. The stories are intricately woven together and executed even more beautifully. This six-episode journey takes us through numerous ups and downs, flashbacks and backstories, loneliness and desperation, and the various stages of parenting.
Each character has a beautiful story to tell, when it comes to parenting. Julia and Ro are going to be parents very soon but there is some tension built-up between the two of them. Ro is getting cold feet and second guessing the decision of becoming a parent, while Julia believes Ro is cheating on her. All of this is revealed during the hostage situation. Soon, other characters like Roger and Anna-Lena help the two mend their relationship and act as parental figures. Roger and Anna-Lena live alone now as their children have all left and so the two take up a hobby that threatens to drive a wedge between them. Jim's daughter Jill is a drug-addict and keeps on stealing from her father. Jack hates this but Jim, being her father, cannot help but love his daughter even if she is an addict. Estelle's son jumped off a bridge long ago in front of Jack, when he was only 13. Now she lives all alone and decides to host an open house and pretends to be a buyer in her own house.
Loneliness is a horrible feeling, if you ask me. And its effect is increased during holidays and festive occasions. Everybody wants to be surrounded by people during these times and have fun and create memories. But when you have no one around you, it can get scary. It can mess with your mind, drive you crazy and make you desperate. So much that you might orchestrate a fake robbery and hostage situation that will force people to stay around you, eat with you and watch fireworks together. That might very well be the case but as I said, none of your fears will come true. The show is as heartwarming as it can get. It radiates affection and compassion. Ro takes the leap of faith to become a parent out of love for Julia. Roger decides to give up his hobby for the happiness of his wife. And Jack & Jim give Jill a second chance at life, for you never give up on the people you love. Jack eventually finds the robber but lets them go because even though the robber made a mistake, it was a harmless one and not all mistakes need to be punished.
Frederick Backman is the new age author who defies the norms and conventions of the modern times. He takes a risk to go against the belief of people who highly romanticise loneliness and solitude. They feel proud to wear it as some kind of badge of honour and look upon it as an achievement to boast about. Backman crushes this senseless and harmful belief very sweetly and tenderly. As if looking out for us, encourages us to be a little brave, show some strength and dare to love and care and help and forgive. Because if a bunch of strangers can care for each other selflessly in a life and death situation, then there is still some hope left for humanity. Backman is my real-life Ted Lasso and I'm so grateful he exists.