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SURFACE Present Immoral, Confusing Psychological Thriller

Poster Courtesy of MMPA

SURFACE Present Immoral, Confusing Psychological Thriller

By Movieguide® Contributor

SURFACE is an Apple TV+ streaming series presented as a psychological thriller. The show is about a woman named Sophia who has amnesia as a result of a suicide attempt she’s not sure she really made. The main characters claim to be Sophie’s friends and family, and although they all assure her that she jumped from a ferry to end her own life, Sophie struggles to believe it. She spends the first season wrestling with the question: if her life was so seemingly perfect, why would she try to end it?

Created by Veronica West, SURFACE has an intriguing storyline, but the constantly suspenseful, vaguely sinister mood of the show begins to get old within the first two episodes. The acting and writing do not work well together; often the understated script is performed in an over-the-top way that feels unbelievable. To make matters worse, MOVIEGUIDE® must find SURFACE unacceptable due to extreme cases of foul language, abuse of both alcohol and drugs, corruption, adultery, violence, and homosexuality.

SURFACE is an Apple TV+ original show claiming to be a psychological thriller. It follows the “new start” of Sophie, a young woman who wakes up with amnesia to a nearly perfect life that she allegedly committed suicide to escape. With a combination of repeating elements like dark lighting (regardless of context,) tense scores, and universally unclear character motives, SURFACE offers the audience a suspenseful mystery that quickly becomes stagnant. Creator Veronica West fills every episode with alleged answers about Sophie’s mysterious past, only to turn those answers back into mysteries before the credits roll. The dissatisfying lack of progression is bad enough. Unfortunately it is paired with over-the-top acting that can’t spice up bland dialogue, making SURFACE a frustrating show to watch.

SURFACE attempts to interest audiences in the unique dilemma of Sophie, a confused young woman played by show producer Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Sophie cannot remember anything: her kind and wealthy husband James, her shallow but devoted best friend Caroline, and their story about her suicide attempt are all mysteries to her. When she notices that she cannot access her own bank account and discovers evidence that her husband may be hiding criminal activity from her, Sophie begins to wonder if she really tried to commit suicide at all. With help from a stranger claiming to be her secret lover, Sophie tries to unravel the truth buried in her trauma.

SURFACE’S cast includes the talents of Stephen James, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, and Ari Graynor. These actors and actresses are given very straightforward dialogue (sprinkled liberally with profanity.) The conversations that make up most of the show’s runtime are supposed to wrap the viewer in the same tangled web of lies that the main character is trying to claw her way out of. However, the cast all deliver these lines with mismatched over-the-top facial expressions and constantly high emotion. These choices begin to feel repetitive by the second episode. The drab gray and gloomy settings of wealth that the actors are placed in grow stale with similar speed.

SURFACE begins by seeming to champion a worldview that values truth above everything else. It may sound contradictory, but Sophie is revealed early on as being the kind of character who is willing to lie, cheat, and bribe her way to the truth about her own past. However, this truth- valuing ideal is never solidified because the main characters take no responsibility for actions like murder, embezzlement, or adultery. Once their secrets are revealed, every character runs from the consequences and displays no remorse for those they hurt along the way. For example, a character who was introduced as the only selfless champion of truth winds up willfully destroying criminal evidence to save his own skin. The show works hard to have no clear villains or heroes. By the conclusion, even the concept of truth seems gray and lacks power.

Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements: Vaguely moral worldview where abuse and domestic violence are portrayed as bad, while lies and obstruction of truth are viewed as the ultimate evil. In spite of this, there are no characters aside from Sophie’s therapist, alone, who are not liars, thieves, or sexually immoral. The main character claims to be searching for the truth, but is willing to lie to others and trust nothing about reality in order to find something that will satisfy her. There are absolutely no references to religion, Christianity or otherwise. The entire show hinges upon a lack of clarity about whose actions are right and whose actions are wrong, and this applies to organizations in authority like the police department and healthcare professionals. The implication that follows is that the only morally right thing is understanding who you are, no matter what it takes to gain that understanding. The “f” word and “s” word are heavily prominent throughout the entire show and God’s name is taken in vain multiple times throughout the show.

Violence: Several scenes of implied or threatened violence, images of more than one character having undergone bloody head trauma, and one scene of directly violent confrontations. The show artfully avoids revealing the corpses of violently murdered characters, but implies that they met grisly ends. The main plot of the show revolves around a character allegedly attempting to take her own life.

Sex: No sex fully depicted, but everything leading up to the act is given plenty of screen time per episode. Adultery features heavily in four of the main characters’ stories. There are several scenes of kissing and physical sexual escalation per episode, and a more than one very abrupt homosexual kissing scene.

Nudity: Scenes of partial nudity are featured in every episode.

Alcohol Use: Alcohol is consumed in nearly every episode and the majority of these scenes involve characters getting drunk.

Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse: Multiple scenes of drug abuse and illegal drug
transactions throughout the show.

SURFACE communicates this flat, thematic confusion with a heap of immoral content. No character is free of dialogue containing the “f” and “s” words. Sexual promiscuity, including homosexual activity, are just one of the immoral things that the main character is willing to experiment with in the name of discovering who she used to be. Adulterous sexual acts are featured in the majority of the episodes. One of the main characters copes with the consequences of their actions by not only getting drunk in several episodes, but taking illegal drugs and threatening friends with violence. Finally, although truth is half-heartedly featured as the show’s main subject, there is no mention of religion or God except to take His name in vain. All of these negative elements, from content to form, prompt Movieguide® to find SURFACE unacceptable.

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Our small team works tirelessly to provide resources to protect families from harmful media, reviewing 415 movies/shows and writing 3,626 uplifting articles this year. We believe that the gospel can transform entertainment. That’s why we emphasize positive and faith-filled articles and entertainment news, and release hundreds of Christian movie reviews to the public, for free. No paywalls, just trusted, biblically sound content to bless you and your family. Online, Movieguide is the closest thing to a biblical entertainment expert at your fingertips. As a reader-funded operation, we welcome any and all contributions – so if you can, please give something. It won’t take more than 52 seconds (we timed it for you). Thank you.

Movieguide® is a 501c3 and all donations are tax deductible.


4000+ Faith Based Articles and Movie Reviews – Will you Support Us?

Our small team works tirelessly to provide resources to protect families from harmful media, reviewing 415 movies/shows and writing 3,626 uplifting articles this year. We believe that the gospel can transform entertainment. That’s why we emphasize positive and faith-filled articles and entertainment news, and release hundreds of Christian movie reviews to the public, for free. No paywalls, just trusted, biblically sound content to bless you and your family. Online, Movieguide is the closest thing to a biblical entertainment expert at your fingertips. As a reader-funded operation, we welcome any and all contributions – so if you can, please give something. It won’t take more than 52 seconds (we timed it for you). Thank you.

Movieguide® is a 501c3 and all donations are tax deductible.