The Haunting of Bly Manor: Haunting Pasts And The Confusion Of Love

“We lay my love and I,

Beneath the weeping willow.

But now alone I lie,

And weep beside the tree,

Singing, O Willow Waly,

By the tree that weeps with me.

Singing, O Willow Waly,

Til my lover returns to me.”


The Haunting of Bly Manor is another genius creation from writer/director Mike Flanagan. You may be thinking, “Oh no, not this again,” but I have decided that I would like to put my thoughts on his work up. I will slowly review the different bodies of work he has directed. That everything from Absentia to The Midnight Club. Of course, all of those will go along with my other movie reviews. Today’s focus is obviously The Haunting of Bly Manor. The Netflix original series takes on the works of Henry James, focusing mainly on The Turn Of The Screw with other aspects sprinkled in. For instance, each of the 9 episodes is named after a story written by James and uses vital themes from each story to drive the characters forward. While Flanagan’s previous Netflix show, The Haunting of Hill House, leans into its supernatural and scary elements, Bly is more of an ode to gothic romance. It revels in its beauty and scares with equal measure. Themes of love and how it can corrupt are heavily explored as our cast of characters traverses its many ups and downs. Now I would like to explore the plot without giving away spoilers.
Our unnamed narrator shows up at a wedding in Northern California. As the thrill of the day’s rehearsal dies down, a small group of guests and the bride and groom-to-be are gathered by the fire. When the topic of ghosts comes up, the narrator offers up a story with ghosts of all kinds. Thus our true story begins.
Dani, a young American woman, finds herself applying for a job in the English countryside. She would be a live-in nanny for two young children at their family’s country manor, or as they call it, a “great good place.” As a conversation ignites between Dani and her interviewer Henry Wingrave, it becomes clear Dani has faced death before and is ready to help the two children on their own journey, as their parents passed just a few years earlier. Oddly enough, so had the old au pair. But that was her choice.
When Dani arrives, she meets the two strange yet whimsical children, Miles and Flora. Hannah Grosse, the housekeeper, and Owen, the chef, are also on staff. Finally, there is the gardener Jamie who catches the attention of the new au pair. It is truly incredible. A dream come true, in fact! But soon, the children start acting more out of character. Miles becomes hostile while Flora starts to sleepwalk. As time goes on, Dani must face her past and the whole house’s past, which must be explored and conquered if she wants to help. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In episode 3, “The Two Faces,” we are introduced to Peter and Rebecca, a couple doomed from the start. Their love becomes something much more toxic. Conversations discuss the difference between love and possession, which many can confuse. You should be able to avoid mixing them up, but our wires get crossed. Soon we begin to reflect on the love we think we deserve. That is when things can get messy.
The show is an overall joy. While it is a heavier horror show, it uniquely tackles its ideas and themes. It is refreshing to see the contrast of love and possession in three separate cases, each with very different views of the two terms. Victoria Pedretti is phenomenal as Dani. Her charm is irresistible, and the actions needed to elevate the character are ever-present. She plays the role of a hurt, unforgiving yet kind, a love-worthy young woman with perfect ease.
The direction of the story is also quite brilliant. To take someone else’s work and retool it to change the sentiments but also keep its general terror takes a master. Each character is broken in their own way and has to face it before fixing themselves. I think that is a journey taken in only a few stories from the 1800s, but I could be wrong.
The show is another must-watch from me. It is a great starting point for horror as it is not outright terrifying like Hill House. But that does not mean it isn’t scary when it needs to be. A particular closet scene comes to mind! I do hope you give the show a chance! I am sure there is something you will love about it, even if you’re watching through your fingers! Now I hope you have a perfectly splendid day!

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