Bloodline review – Netflix family drama turns shady when the sun goes down

This tale of blood and revenge in Florida, with Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek, opens so strongly it makes resistance to the Netflix juggernaut seem futile

Everything would appear to be grand for the Rayburn family in Bloodline (Netflix). Patriarch Robert (Sam Shepard) and his wife, Sally (Sissy Spacek, serious cast this), run a little hotel in an idyllic spot on the Florida Keys. Three of their four grown-up kids live nearby with their own relationships and families, and they take part in an extended clan life: get-togethers, volleyball, tug-of-war on the beach, good stuff like that. There are issues, sure – a bit too much drinking at lunchtime; the odd rocky patch in a marriage. But the Rayburns are respected pillars of the local community, to the extent that a new pier in the area is named after them.

Then prodigal son Danny (Ben Mendelsohn) comes back and casts a shadow over everything. A big, black-sheep-shaped shadow. Is he really the bad guy, though? Or the victim? Or both? Families tend to be more complicated – and more interesting – than monochrome ruminants. Even golden boy John (Kyle Chandler), a cop, might not be so golden. Danny’s arrival opens old wounds and rubs salt – and sand – into them.

Suddenly, the Rayburns’ dreamy beach paradise doesn’t look quite so perfect – especially at night, after a few drinks, when the whole place takes on an air of menace. The nearby mangrove swamp, pretty by day, with blue water and dolphins and stuff, throws up its own dark secrets and bad memories.

Bloodline, created by the people who made Damages, is an involving family drama, human and familiar, strongly performed by its serious cast. If you have a family, it can’t help but make you think of them. (Soph, if you’re reading, I’ve talked with the others and we think it’s maybe best if you don’t come for Christmas this year, you’ll just screw everything up – again. Maybe one day, just not yet, after what happened, OK? Just kidding, sis.)

There’s the other kind of blood about the place, too – the sort that gets spilled and then spilled again in revenge. There are bodies, and burning boats, and loads more to come, no doubt. If it can continue to blend the two – family and crime – as successfully as the opening episode suggests, then Bloodline may be one more nail in the coffin of Netflix resistance.


Sam Wollaston

The GuardianTramp

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