The Crowded Room
Title: The Crowded Room
Country of Origin: United States
Genres: Criminal Psychology, Police Detective, True Crime
In Manhattan in the summer of 1979, a young man is arrested for a shocking crime, and an unlikely investigator must solve the mystery behind it before the true criminal strikes again.
The series follows Danny Sullivan after he was arrested for his involvement in a New York City shooting in 1979. Danny unveils his life through a series of interviews with interrogator Rya Goodwin, and slowly details to Rya, and the audience, his mysterious past that led him to the fateful incident. As Danny retrospectively examines his life, he reckons with his past and a few pivotal moments, ultimately leading him to uncover a life-altering revelation.
Tom Holland - Danny Sullivan
Amanda Seyfried - Rya Goodwin
Sasha Lane - Ariana
Will Chase - Marlin Reid
Lior Raz - Yitzak Safdie
Emmy Rossum - Candy Sullivan
Directors: Brady Corbet, Mona Fastvold, Kornél Mundruczó, Alan Taylor
Screenwriters: Akiva Goldsman and Todd Graff
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The Crowded Room is a 10-part TV mini-series that tells the loosely based true story of Billy Milligan, who was the first person ever acquitted of a crime on the grounds of his dissociative identity disorder.
While much of the series is fictionalized, so much so that Billy Milligan was renamed Danny Sullivan in the show, it still contains enough truth to draw viewers into both versions of the story.
Released in early June, the Apple TV+ exclusive has received mixed reviews from critics but has been a huge hit with the platform’s users. This includes an impressive 92% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and 7.6/10 on IMDB. It’s no wonder why when the series features big names like Tom Holland as Danny and Amanda Seyfried as Rya, his therapist.
Tom Holland, better known for his light-hearted role as Spider-Man, does a fantastic job of portraying Danny and his various alternate personalities. In an interview with Forbes magazine, he mentions that the role was a challenge. This is prevalent throughout the series as it goes to some really dark places.
Contrary to Tom’s stellar performance, Amanda’s was a little less convincing. She reported that she felt a bit ‘insecure’ about her work in The Crowded Room. And if you have a keen eye, try and spot the CGI tear she sheds in the final courtroom episode.
Without spoiling too much of the story, there are some very confronting and thought-provoking scenes that are both shocking and sad. In particular, the sexual abuse of a minor and references to suicide. I would suggest not watching this with anyone under the age of 18. Furthermore, anyone experiencing mental health issues should seek help.
In terms of how closely The Crowded Room is based on the true story of Billy Milligan, it’s hard to say because a lot of it is based on interviews done by Daniel Keye, as portrayed in his 1981 non-fiction novel The Minds of Billy Milligan. In the book he goes into great detail about Billy’s life, quoting dialogue from the various interviews he did with him while he was housed in the Central Ohio Psychiatric Hospital.
What we do know is that Billy was likely to have been abused as a child, he did commit a crime with a gun, and he was the first person to ever be found not guilty due to DID.
What wasn’t mentioned in the TV series was that Billy’s crimes were much worse than what was depicted. Nicknamed ‘The Campus Rapist’, over a 12-day period, Billy kidnapped, robbed, and raped three women. This led him to be arrested in 1977.
Overall though, the series is well-made and very addictive. I did though feel at times some episodes were a bit slow and drawn out. In particular, the first few episodes, but it does pick up near the end. If you can look past some of the acting and pacing issues, The Crowded Room is well worth a watch.
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