A Jumble of Storylines Comes 'Full Circle' for Riveting Payoff

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Starring Claire Danes, Zazie Beetz, Timothy Olyphant, Dennis Quaid, Jharrel Jerome, Jim Gaffigan, Gerald Jones, Sheyi Cole, Adia

Photo courtesy of Bell Media

BY Kaiya ShunyataPublished Jul 18, 2023

Even when there is radio silence for months on end, we can always assume Steven Soderbergh is working on a new project. His most recent film, Magic Mike's Last Dance, was released in theatres earlier this year and a new series, Command Z starring Michael Cera, was recently announced. He works more than he rests, which would be a concern if his work became sloppier — but, if Full Circle is anything to go by, Soderbergh hasn't lost his touch.

The limited miniseries focuses on the stories of multiple characters and families, which become interwoven after a botched kidnapping goes wrong. Though they are connected, the threads unravel with each episode, becoming fragmented like a broken mirror. The cracks in the mirror spread as it becomes clear that almost every character harbours a secret so heavy it could set a cataclysmic event in motion.

During a night out, the son of Sam (Claire Danes) and Derek (Timothy Olyphant) is the target of a kidnapping when he goes to meet a boy from school who has been stealing his belongings. During their meeting, however, the boys swap clothes, causing the thief to get taken hostage instead. Sam and Derek are then forced to reckon with the thought of abandoning this child who the kidnappers think is their son, or leave him for dead.

This storyline is paired with that of the kidnappers, consisting of Aked (Jharrel Jerome), Louis (Gerald Jones) and Xavier (Sheyi Cole), who seem less than enthusiastic as the tension-filled night goes on. The first two episodes are slightly confusing, with multiple characters introduced at once, but as viewers get a hold of the multitudes of faces and names, Full Circle becomes easier to follow.

Full Circle becomes an intense watch as secrets unravel before the audience while characters remain in the dark. It's fascinating to watch them scramble to understand what their lives have turned into, grasping at air before it flits through their fingers once again. The pieces begin to unfold in the middle of the series once names mentioned in episode one are finally paired with faces in episode three. Soderbergh keeps viewers on their toes throughout, pulling the rug out from under us just as we think we've got a grasp on what's going on, proving again that these characters might not even truly know who they are.

While the miniseries focuses on everyone from crime bosses to rich families, it appears that Soderbergh is most interested in the desperate people who get wrapped up in the schemes of these powerful people. Three young Guyanian refugees — Louis, Natalia (Adia) and Xavier — become trapped within a feud that was birthed 20 years before, and eventually find themselves trapped in a cycle of violence that is out of their control. Despite all three characters being played by relative newcomers, they're the strongest of the ensemble cast, outpacing their peers with stellar and harrowing performances.

Full Circle's events unfold in a matter of days, with each episode picking up where the previous one ends, aiding in the show's rapid-fire pacing. The final episode is especially riveting, pulling out all the stops, and was what I was yearning for when the middle section began to sag. 

Ultimately, Soderbergh is concerned with the question of what happens when the things we're unable to let go of begin to seep into our lives. Full Circle is a testament that these memories and truths will clasp onto our backs like a ghostly presence, and continue to haunt us if we don't shake ourselves free of them.

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