Netflix’s new Margaret Atwood adaptation looks just as good as The Handmaid’s Tale

Posted by
Moya Crockett
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

If your evenings haven’t felt quite the same since the end of the first series of The Handmaid’s Tale, you’re in luck. A new Margaret Atwood adaptation is set to launch on Netflix soon – and if the first full trailer is anything to go by, it’s going to be just as gripping (and terrifying) as THT.

Alias Grace is an upcoming six-hour miniseries based on Atwood’s 1996 historical novel of the same name, which tells the story of a young woman convicted of murder in 18th century Canada. Until now we’d only seen a glimpse of the Netflix adaptation in a short teaser clip, but the brutal new trailer gives a more in-depth look at what’s in store.

Unlike The Handmaid’s Tale, which is set in the US in an imagined future, Alias Grace takes place in the past, and is even more heavily inspired by true events. The central character in the novel and miniseries is Grace Marks, a poor Irish immigrant to Canada who was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery.

Kinnear and Montgomery were found dead at his home in Ontario in 1843. Marks, then just 16 years old, had recently been fired from her job as a maid in Kinnear’s household, after Montgomery (who was also Kinnear’s mistress) became jealous of her. This appeared to give Marks a motive, and she was found guilty of the murders alongside Irish stable hand James McDermott.

Marks, McDermott, Kinnear and Montgomery were all real people, and Marks and McDermott really were convicted of the latter pair’s murders. However, Atwood also incorporated fictional characters into her story. The most significant of these is Simon Jordan, a doctor who sets out to research Marks’ case.

In the trailer for Netflix’s adaptation of Alias Grace, Dr Jordan (Edward Holcroft) is seen visiting Marks in prison, where she has been held for 15 years.

“If there’s been a crime, people want a guilty person,” explains Marks, played by Canadian actress Sarah Gadon. “Rightly or wrongly does not matter.”

Atwood herself has said that one of the central purposes of Alias Grace is to interrogate how society views and treats women suspected of a crime. Dr Jordan struggles to reconcile the mild-mannered, pretty young woman he meets in prison with the image of a violent killer, and puzzles over whether to believe her claim that she cannot remember anything about the day of the murders.

“When there are crimes of violence, involving both a man and a woman, it usually goes as follows: nobody ever says the man is a nice guy, but opinion often splits about the woman,” Atwood said in 1996, shortly after Alias Grace was first published.

“Either she’s the villainous instigator of it all, or else she’s a terrified victim and she only did it because she was frightened for her life. That’s the pattern with Grace. And there's evidence supporting both sides.”

The miniseries – which will span across three decades – is written and produced by Sarah Polley, and directed by Mary Harron. It will be broadcast globally on Netflix on 3 November.

Images: Netflix / Rex Features