TV review: Anxious People a hidden gem on Netflix

Billy Foley

Billy Foley

Billy has almost 30 years’ experience in journalism after leaving DCU with a BAJ. He has worked at the Irish Independent, Evening Herald and Sunday Independent in Dublin, the Cork-based Evening Echo and the New Zealand Herald. He joined the Irish News in 2000, working as a reporter and then Deputy News Editor. He has been News Editor since 2007

Anxious People, Netflix

Anxious People is a hidden gem of a drama released by Netflix over the new year.

The six-episode series, based on the best-selling book by Fredrik Backman, explores the relationship between eight people who are taken hostage in a Swedish apartment by a would-be bank robber.

It’s presented as a comedy drama but really, like any good piece of fiction, it explores the human condition.

It opens with a man jumping to his death from a bridge in a small town outside Stockholm.

A teenage boy tries but fails to talk the man out of it, telling him that his father is a police officer who is good at listening and he could get him on the phone straight away.

We fast forward a number of years and the boy is now a (peculiar looking) police officer himself. He’s working alongside his father when the pair are called into action during a raid on the local bank.

But the armed robber fails miserably. Pointing the gun at the teller is pointless when it’s a cashless bank.

Trying to escape, the robber ends up taking hostage eight people who are in an apartment for an open viewing.

The firearms team arrives from Stockholm and storm the apartment but the robber has slipped the net.

No one is injured and nothing is stolen from the bank. Everyone, including the hostages, just want to move on. Jim (father) thinks there’s nothing to investigate but officer Jack Johansson (son) refuses to give up.

Clearly, something unusual happened during the period of captivity because everyone seems to want to protect the criminal during their police statements. No one can give a decent description and no one heard their kidnapper’s voice.

In a common dramatic device, each episode then relives the hostage drama from the perspective of a different individual or couple.

There’s some lovely stuff here.

I don’t want to give away the whole story but we start with retired couple Roger and Anna-Lenna, who have made a business out of buying apartments in need of a bit of improvement and selling them on.

They have an unusual scheme to keep the purchasing price as low as possible - employing an actor pretending to be an overbearing, drunk or weird neighbour.

However, it turns out the actor was hired by Anna-Lenna and Roger was unaware. He thought it was his skill and negotiating ability alone that was allowing them to buy apartments for less than market value.

Roger was a stay at home husband who raised their children and Anna-Lenna, who had a successful career, is desperate to boost Roger’s self esteem and save, what she fears, is their crumbling marriage.

This plan backfires when Roger believes the actor (on this occasion dressed as a sexualised bunny rabbit) is having an affair with his wife and punches him in the face during the hostage situation.

A devastated Ann-Lenna confides in Julia, her co-hostage who is heavily pregnant and can’t understand the need to protect the status concerns of an old man, her fears that Roger may never forgive her.

We also learn that Zara, a bank manager, didn’t go to the apartment to consider purchasing it. Rather she was continuing her obsession with the man who jumped from the bridge.

Before the fatal fall, he handed a letter to a teenage Jack and asked him to hand it in at the local bank.

He had killed himself because Zara had refused him a loan. She turned up at the open viewing when she recognised the address as the apartment he grew up in.

And of course, Zara and the bunny end up dating.