“Do you see it now? Or should we finish this on the board?”
Every win has a price.
From her debut film appearance as Thomasin in Robert Eggers’ 2016 horror The Witch, Anya Taylor-Joy has been constantly proving to audiences that she not only stands strong alongside her co-stars but puts herself leagues ahead of them as well. Taking the lead in The Queen’s Gambit as chess prodigy Beth Harmon, Taylor-Joy makes it clear that she’s on a career-high, and shows no signs of slowing down.
In the Netflix limited series based on the 1983 novel of the same name, a recently orphaned nine year-old Beth Harmon (Taylor-Joy) finds a natural disposition for talent and vices alike as she navigates through life in an
orphanage, school, chess tournaments and simply being alone. In every sense of the word, The Queen’s Gambit is cinematic, and as a result there’s plenty to marvel at. What will first catch your eye is the cinematography of the show, right from the start it’s clear that a considerable amount of effort has been put into making sure that every frame you see on screen is as meticulously crafted as Harmon’s game plans. Gabriele Binder, the show’s costume designer evokes a sense of apophenia as she layers Harmon’s wardrobe with echoes of chessboards in checkered patterns ranging from the obscure to the obvious, and beyond that, all around Beth in her world dominated by the game are constant visual and verbal cues, references and Easter eggs to patterns, pieces and plays within the game. Not that this should ward off those that have never even set foot near a chess board, the show, which has seen a resulting rise in interest in the 1500 year-old game, is not exclusively about the clash of pieces on the board, but rather at its centre is a heavily-charged coming-of-age story that somehow finds a new and engaging perspective of an oversaturated sub-genre, dominated currently by the likes of Riverdale, Kissing Booths, and lots of Boys that have been Loved Before.
Taylor-Joy treads new and exciting ground as the show’s script demands an impressive range as an actress that she
replies in kind with a display of talent that isn’t easily rivalled by anyone in her field. The show’s cast is fairly solid, Thomas Brodie-Sangster (The Maze Runner, Game of Thrones) and Harry Melling (Harry Potter, The Old Guard) provide sparks of entertainment as a means to which Taylor-Joy can creatively bounce off of, but the whole ensemble of the show’s talent still lies in the shadow of her success as the lead character. Beth’s arc across the seven episodes flows to a titanic conclusion on the back of tragedy, and the often relatable emotions of loss, lust, addiction and above all; the desire to win.
“Chess isn’t always competitive. Chess can also be beautiful. It was the board I noticed first. It’s an entire world of just sixty four squares.”
The Queen’s Gambit teaches its audience many lessons, the most poignant of which being that development is a constant, growth is natural and a part of life, and we must constantly unlearn as we learn in order to better ourselves and accept the fact that we will be tied down by delusions of grandeur so long as we chase that unattainable illusion of ‘perfection’.
The Queen’s Gambit is now available to stream on Netflix.
Drama | USA, 2020 | 15 | Mini Series (7 Episodes) | 23rd October 2020 | Netflix | Dir.Scott Frank | Anya Taylor-Joy, Chloe Pirrie, Bill Camp, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Harry Melling, Marielle Heller