You Don’t Know Me (2022) review: Gripping and well-executed drama

In the British courtroom drama, You Don’t Know Me, the defendant narrates the events leading up to the murder he is accused of, to prove his innocence to the jury. All four episodes are now available on Netflix. 

Story

The show begins in a courtroom, depicting the prosecutor’s closing statement at the end of a trial. She accuses the defendant of murdering Mr Jamil Issa, claiming to have proof showing the same. 

A list of evidence follows, including, the defendant’s cell location and CCTV footage that places him at the crime scene. The defendant’s hair was found in the victim’s car and the victim’s blood was found under his fingernails. 

Although there were no prints on it, a gun, presumed to be the weapon of murder, was found in his apartment. The defendant was seen telling the deceased, “You’re a waste man, Jamil!” which the prosecutors perceive as a threat made towards the victim.   

Having fired his lawyer, the defendant gives his own closing statement, arguing that he is innocent. He promises an explanation for the evidence provided by the opposing counsel. 

Telling the jury that to understand the murder, they have to first understand his relationship with Kyra,  the defendant dictates the blooming of their relationship, beginning with a book on a bus and blueberry muffins. 

As the series progresses, the jury must decide whether or not they believe the defendant’s story as it unravels. 

Performances

Samuel Adewunmi gives a compelling performance as the protagonist of the series, the defendant of the case. The narrator of the show and a complex character, he dances around the range of intense emotions and grips the audience with his impeccable dialogue delivery. His performance even makes the audience doubt the story fed to them by the prosecutor with the facts presented to them at the start of the series. 

Playing a character who says a lot without revealing much requires an advanced understanding of the character’s deepest feelings and pattern of thoughts, and knowledge of the techniques to be used to express them correctly. Sophie Wilde displays these skills as Kyra, the protagonist’s girlfriend. Throughout the series, she expertly portrays various sides of Kyra that considerably differ from each other.

Roger Nsengiyumva plays Jamil Issa, the thug who was murdered. Despite the viewers’ eyes being on him right from the start, he manages to surprise the audience, surpassing their expectations by stretching to the limits of his character which gradually evolve throughout the series.

The entire cast does a remarkable job creating a fictional world for the audience, made believable by their spot-on expressions and passionate execution of dialogues.

Positives

Based on a 2017 novel by Imran Mahmood, the series succeeds in translating the suspense and thrill maintained in the book through the defendant’s narration of events, to the screen. The audience is kept questioning the truth throughout the series.

In You Don’t Know Me, the audience can be called the 13th member of the jury, being provided information about the events simultaneously with the jury shown. The viewer is asked to judge the defendant’s case, creating an opinion of their own based on which to choose an apt verdict. Ambiguity persists throughout the series along with an air of suspense that is never entirely eliminated. Just as the defendant’s counsel predicts in the series, listeners will continue to doubt the narrator’s account of events in spite of what he chooses to say and the audience is no exception. 

With a talented cast that spares no effort in delving deep into their character’s emotions and embodies them on screen with an evident passion, the series captures the audience with its compelling narrative, never losing their attention. Each episode leaves the audience trying to piece the puzzle together themselves and craving to learn more about the defendant’s side.

Told through narration, the series smoothly transitions from the defendant’s trial scenes to his memories. Driven by its powerfully presented characters and impactful dialogues, the show keeps the audience attentive using excellent cinematography that helps build the series’ fictional world through shots of London and the courtroom, and a soundtrack that beautifully accentuates each moment of the show, regardless of the type of scene.

The chemistry between Samuel Adewunmi and Sophie Wilde is apparent right from their first scene together. The romance is depicted through natural and realistic dialogues and although hardly seeming necessary at first, its importance is known when the two contrasting sides of the defendant’s story begin converging into one. 

Although it is never mentioned directly in the series, one of the themes is the effect of prejudice on the justice system which is implied by the defendant several times during the court’s proceedings. The series makes a brave attempt at using itself as a platform to draw the viewer’s attention to this real issue by acknowledging it in the series.

Negatives

Following the novel’s use of the defendant’s closing statement as the tool through which the story slowly reveals itself, the only flaw in the series comes from the unrealistic nature of this very tool, where despite being warned by the judge several times against the use of unrecorded evidence, the defendant seems to resume his tale, continuing in the same manner.

Verdict

You Don’t Know Me is a must-watch series that will keep its audience on the edge of their seat until the end of the series. With no shortage of thrilling moments, the series seizes its audience and never once loses their attention, delivering on the promise made by its fresh premise. 

Rating: 4/5


Also Read: You Don’t Know Me summary and ending explained