A Nearly Normal Family, a mystery series of moral puzzles

Alexandra Karlsson Tyrefors in A Nearly Normal Family

A Nearly Normal Family, a limited series from Sweden, asks many questions about legal right and wrong vs. moral right and wrong. It looks at what parents will do for their children. The story uses suspense to keep the tension going to the very end.

A Nearly Normal Family in this story includes Adam Sandell (Björn Bengtsson) who is a priest in the church of Sweden. His wife Ulrika (Lo Kauppi) is an attorney. When the story begins, their daughter Stella (Alexandra Karlsson Tyrefors) is 15. She is raped by her handball coach.

The poster for A Nearly Normal Family shows the three members of the family posed for a formal portrait.

The family decides to do nothing about the rape. They don’t report it because they think it will be worse on Stella to try to prove the rape than to just let it go. They don’t get Stella any counseling help. They just drop it.

Four years later we take up the story again. Adam is overly soft where Stella is concerned. Ulrika is having an affair and drinking too much. Stella is not in college but is working as a clerk in a store and saving money to go traveling.

Christian Fandango Sundgren and Alexandra Karlsson Tyrefors in A Nearly Normal Family

Stella meets Chris (Christian Fandango Sundgren). He’s charming, attractive, seems to have money. But Stella’s best friend Amina (Melisa Ferhatovic) doesn’t like him. His former girlfriend warns Stella about him.

It takes her a while to figure out what a bad person he is. Then, bam! He’s murdered and she’s arrested.

This series reminded me very much of another Swedish series, Quicksand. Like that series, a young woman is arrested early in the story and kept in jail out of contact with her family. The facts are not laid out in linear order. The writers keep secrets from Stella and from the viewers until the very end when we finally learn everything during the trial. The story is told from multiple points of view and in numerous timelines. Sometimes key facts are revealed as memories.

Much of the story is about what the two parents are willing to do to protect Stella from the murder charge. What they are doing is against the law, but is it morally right? How far would parents go to protect their child, especially after their failures with the earlier rape incident?

The same moral questions apply to the murder itself. When it’s finally revealed what actually happened the events were definitely against the law. But how would you measure them on the scale of right and wrong? I thought those were the key thematic motifs in the series.

Written to maintain tension and secrets, A Nearly Normal Family is engaging and compelling to the end. Per Hanefjord directed every episode. I thought it was a well-done, strong mystery series. There were many plot holes regarding the way the police investigated the murder, a fact mystery buffs will notice. However, the oversimplified police work aspect of the series provided space for the complexity of the family response to what happened. That was the real focus of the story.

The series is streaming on Netflix.

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