Netflix’s October roster of content is almost unbelievably jam-packed, and one of the most intriguing titles (believe it or not) is about chess. Actually, it’s a limited series and coming-of-age story about a chess-playing prodigy. Anya Taylor-Joy stars in The Queen’s Gambit (so named for the opening move but arriving with other connotations) as a narcotics-fueled orphan, Beth Harmon, who strikes out into the male-dominated 1950s subculture of competitive chess playing and emerges as a troubled champion.
What results is an unnerving and surprisingly suspenseful tale about the true cost of genius that’s based upon the Walter Tevis novel of the same name. It’s also a meditation on addiction and danger, given that Beth becomes dependent upon tranquilizers, booze, and well, you name it, while battling towards a world title. It’s a bit of an underdog tale, the likes of which we haven’t seen before since it doesn’t revolve around contact sports, but around a young woman who lives and breathes by the fall of the pawns. The series hails from Godless director Scott Frank, who’s co-creating, showrunning, directing, writing, and executive producing. From the synopsis:
Abandoned and entrusted to a Kentucky orphanage in the late 1950s, a young Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) discovers an astonishing talent for chess while developing an addiction to tranquilizers provided by the state as a sedative for the children. Haunted by her personal demons and fueled by a cocktail of narcotics and obsession, Beth transforms into an impressively skilled and glamorous outcast while determined to conquer the traditional boundaries established in the male-dominated world of competitive chess.
The Queen’s Gambit (which also stars Marielle Heller, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Moses Ingram, Harry Melling, and Bill Camp) streams on October 23.