Apple TV’s ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ Review: A Dynamic Exploration of Human Complexities

Brie Larson as Elizabeth Zott in the official poster for Apple TV's Lessons in Chemistry.

Apple TV’s Lessons in Chemistryadapted from the best-selling novel by Bonnie Garmus, is an outstanding miniseries crafted with a plethora of heart and consideration. Starring Academy Award winner Brie Larson as Elizabeth Zott, a female chemist living in the 50s, the series follows her life through a string of events leading to the kind of conclusion that feels earned and inspiring.

For those who’ve read the books, there’s much already out there regarding spoilers, but for those walking into the series fresh, each episode brings something exemplary to work through and deconstruct. Apple TV’s Lessons in Chemistry isn’t a romance, but it’s a love story in every way, with connections to romantic love, platonic love, and the unexpected beats of adoration uncovered while looking back at one’s life. It’s a remarkable story, even when it’s profoundly heartbreaking and difficult to watch, for it’s a showcase of endurance and the worthwhile dreams that become a reality in the aftermath of persistence.

Apple TV’s Lessons in Chemistry Is Yet Another Testament to Brie Larson’s Acting Chops

Brie Larson as Elizabeth Zott in a lab in Apple TV's Lesons in Chemistry.
©Apple TV+

Brie Larson’s award-winning performance for Room shows what a powerhouse she is, and Apple TV’s Lessons in Chemistry improves upon every expectation one might have of her. (It’s incredible how some actors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe remain some of the strongest performers of the decade, but that’s a conversation for another time.) Larson is mesmerizing as Elizabeth Zott—a complex woman who’s not always in the right but learns along the way. She’s a bit intimidating at first; it’s easy to watch her in the first few episodes and assume that she might be the kind of person who thinks a bit too highly of herself. But there’s immense heart and a wealth of vulnerability sitting inside her that Larson brings out at the perfect moments, proving that the character’s layers are more than meets the eye.

How she quietly opens parts of herself, shuts herself off amid grieves and heartache, then learns to love again is no small feat. Larson’s ability to hold stories and insurmountable depth in her expressions and physicality alone is simply stunning to watch. She’s a class act, to be sure and with that comes the importance of noting her chemistry with other characters, such as Lewis Pullman’s Calvin Evans, Aja Naomi King’s Harriet Sloane, and Alice Halsey’s Madeline Zott, make for some of the most pleasing moments throughout the series.

The Story Is a Love Letter to Human Connections

Elizabeth and Calvin sitting on the floor in Lessons in Chemistry.
©Apple TV+

Now, while Apple TV’s Lessons in Chemistry isn’t a romance that ends with a neatly wrapped happy ending, the love story between Elizabeth and Calvin is a prevalent part of the story that beautifully defines the word everlasting. Larson and Pullman are breathtaking together—how their story begins, the places where it unravels, and where viewers leave them result in some of the most emotionally gripping parts of the series. The features of Calvin and Elizabeth in Madeline are bound to evoke tears. So much of it boils down to how Larson embodies all versions of Elizabeth and simultaneously how a young actress like Alice Halsey brilliantly holds her own alongside her.

Despite the heartache the series brings, the love in the series is undeniable. It results in the type of growth that feels so beautifully rewarding to watch as both a viewer and a human being. Calvin and Elizabeth’s love story might’ve been short-lived, but it’s a tremendous part of the story, proving that transparency in a relationship can do wonders. Something about how their story unfolds is reminiscent of The Script’s “Science and Faith.” It excavates what happens when people trust each other and how they honor one another because their love is so deep-rooted that it endures even when there’s an expiration date.

Elizabeth and Harriet talking with friends in Apple TV's Lessons in Chemistry.
©Apple TV+

Apple TV’s Lessons in Chemistry brings several heavy topics into the series, and it does so effectively. We’re in the 50s; thus, women have minimal rights regarding what they can and cannot do, plus how they are perceived in the workplace. Simultaneously, the 50s are also incredibly racist, and what happens when one person stands up for themselves but doesn’t recognize their privilege? The series explores what all this looks like while allowing Elizabeth’s friendship with Harriet to become yet another piece of the show’s heart. There’s a lot at play here as the story explores what it means to stand up for ourselves and others without stepping on anyone else’s toes.

There’s also much to be said about where the story begins and how it ends. How two episodes connect is something I’ll be thinking about for a long, long time. Where the season starts and where it concludes deserve all the accolades. Through exemplary narrative choices, a stunning showcase of dual timelines, and brilliantly lived-in performances, Apple TV’s Lessons in Chemistry is an exquisite, profoundly memorable work of fiction.

Lessons in Chemistry premieres exclusively on Apple TV on October 13.


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