Netflix’s Obsession: Is the British Series Rooted in Reality?

Netflix’s ‘Obsession’ is a thriller drama series starring Charlie Murphy, Richard Armitage, and Indira Varma in the lead roles. The British limited series is directed by Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D’Sa. It revolves around William Farrow, a respected surgeon who has an affair with Anna Barton, his son, Jay’s fiancée. Over time the duo’s inappropriate relationship turned obsessive and destructive, threatening to destroy the lives of everyone around them. The series explores the depths of erotic obsession and highlights several complex themes, such as sex, infidelity, death, and grief, in a modern context. Naturally, viewers must be curious to learn about the inspiration behind the story. If you are wondering whether ‘Obsession’ is based on true events, here is everything you need to know!

Netflix’s Obsession is Adapted From Josephine Hart’s Novel

No, ‘Obsession’ is not based on a true story. The four-part limited series is an adaptation of author Josephine Hart’s critically acclaimed debut novel ‘Damage.’ The 195-page long book tells a fictional story of an affair between a politician and his to-be daughter-in-law. Hart, a theatrical producer and television presenter, worked on her debut novel for several years before it was published in 1991. However, the author has not cited any real incidents behind the book’s story. “There is nothing autobiographical about it,” Hart said in a 1993 interview with Tampa Bay Times. “I understand erotic obsession, and I certainly know death and grief. I think Damage is about sex and death in a very profound way,” she added, elaborating upon the book’s central themes.

‘Damage’ was previously adapted into a feature film of the same name directed by Louis Malle and starring Jeremy Irons in the lead role. The 2023 television adaptation is penned by writers Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and Benji Walters. However, the television series makes several changes to its source material while adapting the acclaimed novel for the screen. Firstly, the book’s narrator is an unnamed former Medical Doctor turned politician. However, in the series, the main character is named William Farrow, and he is a successful surgeon without any political ambitions. Other changes are more cosmetic in nature and alter some characters’ traits and backstories.

The series greatly expands upon the character of Anna, the romantic interest of the book’s narrator. “I wanted to make sure we filled her out more, understood her more. That doesn’t mean we have to like her and all the things she does,” writer Morgan Lloyd Malcolm told The Guardian about fleshing out Anna’s character in the adaptation. Lloyd Malcolm also stated that the creative team tries to stay true to Hart’s novel and her characterization while updating certain story elements for a modern audience.

‘Obsession’ explores several facets of the sensational affair between William and Anna and how it affects them as individuals and their loved ones. “The book is so particular about the kind of sex they’re having and the way they do it and how that feeds into their relationship,” he said, explaining the complex correlation between sex and romance the series explores. However, Lloyd Malcolm noted that they had to tone done some of the sexual aspects of the story, especially the BDSM-like relationship between its main characters, to make the series palatable for the mainstream audience.

All things said, ‘Obsession’ is not based on a true story or inspired by real events. The series is a mostly faithful adaptation of author Josephine Hart’s seminal 1991 novel ‘Damage’ which explores several taboo ideas relating to relationships, sex, and death. However, the 2023 television adaptation reimagines the story in a contemporary context and uses the ideas from the source material to explore the complex power dynamics and emotional relationships between its main characters.

Read More: Where is Netflix’s Obsession Filmed?