Recommended: Tell Me Lies on Hulu
What's Tell Me Lies About?
When Lucy and Stephen meet at Baird College, they embark on a campus romance that quickly becomes an addictive, toxic spiral. Over the course of eight years, their relationship permanently alters their lives, as well as the lives of everyone around them.
Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?
There are plenty of young adult dramas on the market, but few line up the pieces as well as Hulu’s adaptation of Carola Lovering’s novel, which puts a darker spin on the college romance. Though it’s positioned as a will they/won’t they love story, Lucy and Stephen’s relationship is hardly aspirational — rather than take the time to discover herself, Lucy forms her identity around Stephen, and her college experience becomes defined by their tumultuous affair. For his part, Stephen manipulates and gaslights Lucy, behavior he learned from his mother.
Tell Me Lies never glorifies their toxic relationship — in fact, in the show's 2015 timeline, which serves as a framework for the college-aged flashbacks, Lucy’s friends are openly critical of “the whole Stephen rabbit hole” — but electric performances from Grace Van Patten and Jackson White render this push-and-pull entirely understandable. White has no problem sparking with other cast members, including Alicia Crowder, but together, he and Van Patten are magnetic, and their intoxicating chemistry will take viewers right back to their first (and in this case, worst) love.
And then there are those sex scenes. Tell Me Lies features lengthy, graphic depictions of sex, but there’s no leering gaze or gratuitous nudity, à la Euphoria. Here, sex scenes offer new insight into the characters and provide a window into their vulnerabilities, particularly Lucy, who allows herself to be free with Stephen in a way she doesn’t with anyone else. As with real young adults, these moments of connection, good and bad, teach the students what they want and how they wish to be perceived by the world around them, factors that come into play as the story unfolds across eight years.
Lucy and Stephen’s story forms the backbone of Tell Me Lies, but showrunner Meaghan Oppenheimer takes care to ensure that the supporting players also get their due. Interwoven with the romantic drama is a campus tragedy that raises the stakes for these privileged, primarily white characters. This storyline gives Spencer House and Sonia Mena something to chew on, and it creates a tension that looms over both timelines, linking the college and post-grad stories beyond their messy central relationship.
Pairs well with