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Dead Ringers review: Rachel Weisz is outstanding in this deeply unsettling psychological thriller

The Prime Video series is a remake of David Cronenberg’s 1988 magnum opus of the same name, starring Jeremy Irons

Dead Ringers review: Rachel Weisz is outstanding in this deeply unsettling psychological thriller

Last Updated: 12.51 PM, Apr 21, 2023


Story: Identical twins Beverly and Elliot Mantle are renowned gynaecologists in New York who aspire to change the way women give birth. While Beverly is certainly committed to the project for altruistic reasons, Elliot views it as an opportunity to expand her research into childbirth – even experiments deemed unethical or even illegal by medical practitioners and the law. The usually soft-spoken Beverly and the unpredictable and unhinged Elliot are an inseparable pair – to the extent that it is almost a toxic relationship.


Review: The TV remake of David Cronenberg’s iconic 1988 film is loosely based on a novel by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland titled, Twins. The novel itself is a fictionalised account of the tragic tale of real-life twin gynaecologists Stewart and Cyril Marcus. The TV series is a six-part showcase of Rachel Weisz’s incredible performance in a dual role. She essays a gender-swapped version of Jermey Irons’ performance in Cronenberg’s classic. And in many ways, Weisz has managed to eclipse the veteran British actor’s take on both characters.


As Beverly, Weisz perfectly captures the relatively shy twin sister who believes her work could revolutionise the way women give birth – a groundbreaking project aimed at changing the world for the better. And Weisz’s depiction of Elliot is equally compelling but with subtle changes to her demeanour and personality, setting herself apart from her twin as a woman who is more invested in the science of artificial childbirth. While both characters share an uncanny resemblance, Wesiz’s performance ensures that both Elliot and Beverly are easily distinguishable even without their different hairstyles and wardrobe choices.


Showrunner Alice Birch, who is best known for her work in the acclaimed romantic drama series, Normal People, has proved that she is more than capable of helming major TV shows. The series offers excellent performances from its supporting cast, meticulously edited shots, and body horror scenes that could rival even Cronenberg’s popular films. Fans of the genre would certainly agree that Birch and the creative team have managed to find the right balance of storytelling and grotesque visuals. Birch has also taken several creative liberties for this TV adaptation, and they have mostly been justified.


The series also explores several themes relevant to contemporary socio-politics such as the pro-life versus pro-choice debate, eroticism, narcissism, and the US Healthcare system, among others. The narrative is certainly not subtle when exploring these themes, nor does it rely on subtext. However, it certainly is not too on the nose like the recent Prime Video series Power. This is largely due to the fact that the narrative is entirely character-driven, with Weisz carrying the weight of the series on her shoulders. Beverly and Elliot’s codependent relationship is central to the plot. Beverly’s ideals, morals, and dreams of a normal life are a contrast to Elliot's wild parties, drug abuse, and one-night stands.


While the series does tick most of the right boxes, the genre is undoubtedly targeted at a niche audience. The psychological thriller and body horror sub-genres rolled in one might not be everyone’s cup of tea. And the plot also pushes the boundaries of grounded realism with hints of sci-fi elements and surrealism. Despite the sharp editing, the narrative at times overindulges itself with its time jumps, which convolutes the story to an extent. However, it is not jarring to the extent that it affects the overall quality of Dead Ringers.

Verdict: Dead Ringers is the perfect blend of psychological thriller and body horror. Rachel Weisz’s scintillating performance elevates the series, which already boasts stellar writing and sharp editing. It wouldn’t be too surprising if Weisz swept home a few awards for Best Actress next year.


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