Criticism | Anya Taylor-Joy shines in ambitious Netflix mini-series ‘the Queen’s Gambit’

Chess is one of the oldest sports in the history of the world and, to this day, is considered one of the most difficult to master. Symbol of self-control and a beautiful metaphor for getting to know your opponents, predicting your movements and plunging headlong into the double-edged sword that is proprioception, the famous sport gives the false feeling of being simple, but it goes well beyond a plank of wood with 64 houses – it is, in fact, a complex physical and mental exercise of patience and requiring complete attention and dexterity and resulting in one of the greatest competitions in the world, the World Chess Championship (which, ultimately, is the focus of Netflix’s latest original miniseries, “The Gambit of the Queen”).

Don’t be fooled – the premise behind the production is much more baffling than it looks and even strays from works that start from the same root, like the candid ‘Queen of Katwe’ and the dense documentary “ Bobby Fischer against the world ”. Here, attention extends beyond the clash between two distinct opponents, highlighting the life of young Elizabeth “Beth” Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy in her career role), who has lost her career. mother in a tragic car accident at the age of eight and transferred to the girls’ orphanage in Methuen where she first encountered chess techniques. Knowing every move possible with the guidance of the astute concierge Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp), who, though tough and tough, served as her primary tutor to make her one of the hottest names in the sport in question .

Based on the novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, the compelling tale leads us to believe that Beth Harmon really did exist and that her name was forgotten decades after her back-to-back wins against more experienced players and even Grand Masters, rediscovered at a time when the power of women must be praised in the right way. However, Beth is just a creation of the expert mind of a struggling chess-loving novelist, allowing her knowledgeable characters and multiple arcs to condense into, if not thorough enough, solid enough analysis. on issues of feminism, gender and race. and self-defeating behaviors that, when brought to the screen, plunge audiences into a dynamic frenzy from start to finish. Plus, the show’s seven long episodes go by in the blink of an eye, more for the flawless chemistry of its protagonist cast and for the aesthetic care of an applauded creative team.

To convey Beth’s story to the streaming platform, duo Scott Frank and Allan Scott were hired to be responsible for the screenplay – with Frank, known for his work on the famous “ Logan, ” taking the chair. of the director. While they haven’t managed to make all the right choices, the directors are doing their best to move away from the coming-of-age formulas of films and series in the genre and shift away from the dated Manichean conceptions. “Good” and “bad” (something that seems stagnant in the cosmos that is explored). Following in the footsteps of this book, Beth begins her journey mastering the basic chess, taking on nine-year-old semi-professionals and winning the local competition with fifteen. It doesn’t take long for her and her adoptive mother, Alma (Marielle Heller in a beautiful interpretation), to become partners in a career full of accomplishments and problems that lie within four walls.

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According to critic Harold C. Schonberg, the archetypal build of the protagonist is what allows her to rise as a majestic and unstoppable force, underestimated by those who think they are better than her, like Harry Beltik (Harry Melling) , who becomes his friend. neighbor and her mentor after being defeated, or by those who diminish her because she is younger and not as sophisticated as she should be, like Benny Watts (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), who also surrenders to his charm and becomes one of his great supporters, helping him to win the Russian championship. After all, it is this originality that really defines the almost orchestral mastery of chess, taking Beth away from objective arrogance and allying her with the dedication of a biblical saint, a sane person who wants to have the world to her feet. But these are not all flowers – and the young woman sometimes finds herself caught in the fine line between madness and poise.

Taylor-Joy could spend hours and hours smashing the fourth cinematic wall or with his gaze fixed on the still set, predicting games and analyzing the endless possibilities of defeating his opponent, which nothing could reduce its brightness. Binding to the American individualistic essence that gives her the impetus to move on, the actress, who had already delivered honorable performances in “ The Witch ” and “ Fragmented ”, humanizes a deified character and untouchable, making it clear that Beth is human and prone to failure – either through addiction to alcohol or soothing pills, or your overwhelming frustration at missing a match. Taylor-Joy uses the protagonist’s weaknesses to his advantage with passionate wisdom and a charisma that transcends the stage limits of production.


It’s a fact to say that “ O Gambito da Rainha ” is a great addition to the Netflix catalog – perhaps one of its best, considering the meager heap of recycling in recent years. While not free from obvious slippages, such as the sometimes pedantic soundtrack or some unnecessary filler that doesn’t help the story unfold at all, the miniseries follows a classic technical-narrative structure. which proves to be sufficiently useful for a time which demands escape and dynamism.

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