Baby Reindeer Review

Baby Reindeer
When Donny Dunn (Richard Gadd) gives a woman named Martha (Jessica Gunning) a free cup of tea in the pub where he works, little does he know that this one simple act of kindness will soon transform into a nightmare that changes his life forever.

by David Opie |
Published on

Streaming on: Netflix

Episodes viewed: 7 of 7

Making the move from Edinburgh Fringe to the West End and now Netflix, Baby Reindeer stars a fictionalised version of comedian Richard Gadd, who strikes up a flirty friendship with Martha (Jessica Gunning), a dishevelled, somewhat unhinged woman who claims to be a hotshot lawyer yet can't afford a Diet Coke or cup of tea. The struggling comic "instantly felt sorry for her", Donny reveals via increasingly candid narration. But when the attention Martha gives him descends into full-blown stalking — including a total of 41,071 emails and 350 hours of voicemail — Donny is forced to reckon with past traumas and his own culpability in what happens next.

Baby Reindeer

No easy answers are given, and that's credit to Gadd, who not only wrote the show, but also stars in it, revisiting the most difficult moments of his life with unflinching honesty and even self-condemnation. Moral lines shift and blur from scene to scene in ways that are as unpredictable and unforgettable as Martha herself. And so does the narrative, most notably in the fourth episode, which breaks away from Martha's escapades to reveal another harrowing, even darker chapter of Donny's life from before.

Not an easy watch by any means, but a vital one

Gadd is phenomenal, a consistently charming presence in every scene, and that's true even in Donny's most unlikeable moments. But don't overlook Gunning, whose powerhouse performance as Martha will break your heart one minute and threaten to break your legs the next. The real-life horror of it all is enhanced by unsettling close-ups and interstitial text cards that provide a glimpse of the frightening messages Donny receives from Martha daily, but these genre leanings never detract from the real people at the heart of this tragedy.

Because that's what Gadd’s experience was, really. A tragedy. Everything from shame and mental illness to inept policing and internalised homophobia combined here to ruin the lives of two broken people, which means Baby Reindeer isn't an easy watch by any means, but it is a vital one, especially to anyone who's endured something similar.

Richard Gadd confronts and processes his real-life trauma in a brave, moving, and often disturbing watch that's rooted in comedy, yet the tears you'll shed won't be tears of joy or laughter.

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