Winona: the comeback
NOWHERE is the sense of nostalgia captured better than the central character Joyce Byers, mother of a missing boy called Will (whose disappearance gets the show going) played by 1980s movie icon Winona Ryder. Ryder starred in numerous hits from Heathers and Beetlejuice to Edward Scissorhands and Mermaids, before her career took a massive nosedive amid tales of bad relationships, mental health issues and a highly publicised shoplifting trial.
It seems entirely fitting that in Stranger Things Ryder plays the fragile, oddball mother of a sweet and nerdy kid who simply vanishes one day, pushing her towards mental collapse. In her heyday Ryder often played the stubborn quirky outsider who gave voice to girls who were the antithesis of popular blonde cheerleaders and wanted to do good in the world. Her comeback in Stranger Things is the same girl grown up, a single parent, still awkward, still stubborn. She’s a fierce but loving mother determined to find her missing boy. Playing Joyce as nervous and at the end of her tether, few other actresses could have made the part their own.
Her performance is complemented by a relatively unknown gang of real-life cool kids. The casting was a stroke of genius, and the young actors have generated this hit on the strength of their performances, speaking to nostalgic forty and fiftysomethings of their own youth, and perfectly conveying a childhood before computers, mobiles and social media, when kids had adventures in the woods unshackled from their parents.