Anthony Doerr's book "All the Light We Cannot See" has arguably become one of the most widely known books of the last decade

The book won the Pulitzer Prize and was shortlisted for the National Book Award. Even Barack Obama found the time to read and recommend it while he was still in the White House. The New York Times called the novel "exquisitely beautiful" and named it one of the top 10 books of 2014. But it was not just a critical favorite. "All the Light" became a cultural phenomenon: by the time Netflix gave the green light to the TV adaptation in 2021, over 15 million copies had been sold worldwide. This series, which premiered on the streaming platform on November 2, not only falls short of the book; it is a sentimental, inept, and offensive mess, the mere existence of which casts a shadow on the legacy of the novel.

One of the indications that screenwriter Steven Knight ("Peaky Blinders," "Locke") and director Shawn Levy ("Stranger Things," "Free Guy") made a misstep is the fact that Doerr's story about a blind French girl and a brilliant orphan turned stubborn German soldier in war-torn Brittany during the last months of World War II has been condensed from a 544-page doorstopper into four skeletal episodes. Furthermore, unlike many influential authors who helped bring their novels to the screen, Doerr is not among the producers of the series. Not that these red flags alone could explain how many catastrophic decisions were made in the creation of this sentimental show. Knight's screenplay is particularly unconvincing: it skims the surface of each character and fails to meaningfully address the significant moral questions raised when portraying a Nazi fighter as a good person.

At least the creators of "All the Light" made one inspired decision by casting Aria Mia Loberti as the heroine Marie-Laure Leblanc, a newcomer with no formal acting training. Like Marie, Loberti is blind, but this shared experience only lays the foundation for a brilliant performance that reveals the character's intelligence and determination, which could have otherwise turned into a pitiable damsel in distress. Hiding alone in the walled city of Saint-Malo, where the Nazis held out for several months after D-Day, Marie reads excerpts from Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" over a shortwave radio. The broadcast serves a dual purpose. She hopes to make contact with her father Daniel (Mark Ruffalo) and uncle Etienne (Hugh Laurie), from whom she was separated. But she also does daring and illegal work for the Resistance, using the classic novel to send encoded messages to the Allied forces.

Elsewhere in Saint-Malo, in a crumbling hotel where his dwindling regiment is stationed, Werner Pfennig (Louis Hofmann), a "Dark Star," listens to Marie's broadcasts as bombs fall. These lonely teenagers have something in common: they both used to stay up late listening to a mysterious professor deliver intricate monologues about science and philosophy on a frequency now used by Marie. The human brain exists in complete darkness inside the human skull, but, as he explains, it is capable of illuminating the entire world: "Even in the darkest of your mind, there is still light." The professor's humanism has sustained Werner, who grew up in an orphanage before his outstanding radio skills earned him a place in an exclusive and brutal Nazi military school, despite the "war of old men" he despises. Soon, one of the many sadistic Nazi officers in the series orders him to track down Marie.

It seems they are destined to meet, and you'd better believe that in such a predictable story, they will, but under what circumstances? Will Werner save Marie or lead to her demise? And will he reach her before Nazi art plunderer Reinhold von Rumpel (Lars Eidinger) comes searching for the legendary—and famously cursed—diamond that Daniel rescued from the Paris Museum of Natural History, where he worked before the Germans looted Paris? These questions should provide some intrigue to the show. However, poorly paced scripts, overloaded with inappropriate childhood memories of Marie and Werner, kill any momentum they generate in the present.