Review: On the run from society in maddening 'Mosquito Coast'

Justin Theroux stars in Apple TV+ series

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

“The Mosquito Coast” draws blood. But it may not be the blood you expect.

The show draws on the basic premise of Paul Theroux’s 1981 novel: A brilliant eccentric disgusted by American society takes his family south to Latin America in search of a better life. Except this time around the man, Allie, is played by Justin Theroux (Paul’s nephew) and he’s not moving of his own accord. He’s on the run.

Justin Theroux and Melissa George in "The Mosquito Coast."

So what might have been a meditation on idealism and cultural confusion instead becomes a breathless thriller. Almost too breathless at times. These people jump from the frying pan into the fire with alarming regularity and often disastrous results.

And through its entire first season you have no idea why. There’s something in the past that has the FBI ferociously hunting Allie and his wife, Margot (Melissa George) but the show only throws out hints as to what.

Which, while somewhat intriguing for the audience, is maddening for Dina (Logan Polish), Allie and Margot’s 15-year-old daughter, since she’s also in the dark and would rather be living a more standard teen life. Her younger brother Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) isn’t near as concerned; after all, his dad keeps telling him what a great adventure they’re having.

Except, you know, for the dead bodies and cops.

The show opens in dusty Stockton, CA., where the family has been for a while. Allie is seeking out a living as a handyman — he’s got a MacGyver-esque knack for solving problems — while the kids are being home-schooled, pretty much cut off from society. An attempt to connect with the past sets off alarms at the FBI and soon the chase is on.

And on and on. But dark currents run beneath all the action as Dina more and more questions her father’s sanity and wonders where it all will lead. The wrong turns and cliffhangers become a bit repetitious, but the portrait of a family in desperate disarray anchors all the excitement. In this case you have to wonder if father knows best.

Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News. 

“The Mosquito Coast”


Apple TV+