Maybe The Weekend Away didn’t get the memo. After The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window skewered straightforward thrillers, Netflix releases its latest original movie … another straightforward thriller. All the basics for a decent psychological thriller are present. There’s an exotic locale, a mystery novel as the source material, a recognizable television actress, and several suspects. The only question is whether this thriller could deviate from expectations and deliver some surprises. Only a handful of critics have weighed in so far but the consensus isn’t very positive.
New mom Beth leaves her husband and infant daughter for a weekend getaway to Croatia with best-friend, Kate. Newly-divorced, Kate wants a carefree weekend of drinking, men, and no regrets. But when the ladies meet two gentlemen in a club, Beth drinks too much and passes out. By the next morning, she has no memory of what happened and Kate is missing. Now the local authorities suspect her in Kate’s disappearance.
The Weekend Away is a Workmanlike Thriller That’s Rarely Thrilling
A few words aptly describe The Weekend Away – safe, workmanlike, dutiful. From its opening scenes, this Netflix thriller looks like something intently produced for the streaming platform. Even the shots of the Croatian vistas don’t feel cinematic. Director Kim Farrant competently connects the dots from Alderson’s novel. If nothing else, Farrant keeps the action moving along at a quick pace that somewhat compensates for the story’s familiarity. Nothing here feels innovative or edge-of-your seat. For instance, a chase sequence through city streets feels more pedestrian than thrilling. And a later scene wherein Beth suddenly finds herself under interrogation never feels like it raises the movie’s stakes. It’s just something that happens along the way to the finale. Yes, you’ll be invested enough to stick it out to the end. Yet The Weekend Away feels more like a checklist than a suspenseful crime thriller.
That is, The Weekend Away plays out like a cookie-cutter thriller.
This brings us to the movie’s other liability – the story doesn’t feel very fresh. That is, The Weekend Away plays out like a cookie-cutter thriller. Following Kate’s disappearance, Alderson’s story lines up several suspects for the audience. Could it be the good-looking male escorts who came home with the ladies? Or is it the awkward owner of the villa? Maybe it’s the dismissive, shifty police detective? And that foreign cab driver seems just a little too helpful. By the way, Beth’s husband acted odd when Kate crashed their videocall. Each subsequent plot detail eliminates a red herring. Once The Weekend Away drops one juicy tidbit, the ending is all but inevitable, even with a somewhat unexpected curveball added. Knives Out, this is not.
The Weekend Away Plays It Safe With the Material
Similar to past Netflix thrillers, The Weekend Away plays it pretty safe with its material. Don’t expect a wild night of debauchery when the ladies go out. There’s no salacious sex scenes, no gratuitous violence, and little in the way of suspense. Beth’s safety is never really in question – The Weekend Away won’t make you feel uncomfortable. At this point, Netflix has carved out a niche for itself that’s akin to the Hallmark Christmas movies. These are safe thrillers you can watch with your pre-teen kids sitting in the room. There’s certainly nothing here scintillating enough to draw their attention.
At this point, Netflix has carved out a niche for itself that’s akin to the Hallmark Christmas movies.
If there’s an upside, Leighton Meester comes off quite well with the limited material. She delivers an earnest performance that adds depth to a thinly written character. At the very least, Meester’s ‘Beth’ offers a sympathetic protagonist with whom to invest for 90 minute or so. Likewise, Ziad Bakri has an affable charm that’s disarming as intended of the character. Had The Weekend Away subverted audience expectations, Bakri could easily have sold that twist. And if Christina Wolfe had been around longer in the movie, she might have stolen the show. The rest of our potential suspects come off a bit flat, which poses a problem for this thriller. It’s hard to pass off a sense of danger or urgency when your villains don’t command much attention.
The Weekend Away is Bland, But Harmless Time-Waster
While it’s by no mean a bad movie, The Weekend Away is best described in one word – safe. For average Netflix viewers looking to pass away 90 minutes or so, this is thriller checks off enough boxes to satisfy. From its exotic locale to its staid, if not passable mystery, The Weekend Away is bland but entertaining enough. Leighton Meester transitions well into a more mature role. And the lack of overt violence, sex, or any real danger makes sure this suspense movie appeals to a wide audience.