A Nearly Normal Family primarily centers around teenage Stella Sandell (Alexandra Tyrefors). At 15, Stella was raped by her much older assistant coach, Robin (Christoffer Willén), at handball camp. Stella told her parents, a priest named Adam (Björn Bengtsson) and her law professor mother Ulrika (Lo Kauppi), what happened, but given how the situation played out, Ulrika and her her husband opted not to report the incident or press charges.
Four years later, it’s clear that the now 19-year-old Stella is struggling with a lot of unresolved trauma, further complicated by her budding romance with an older guy, Christoffer (Christian Fandango), that she and her best friend Amina (Melisa Ferhatovic) meet one night while out clubbing.
Spoilers ahead for A Nearly Normal Family on Netflix
Within the first episode, Stella is accused of murdering Chris and taken into custody as the prime suspect. The remaining five episodes are all about Ulrika and Adam’s dogged pursuit of the truth as they try to do whatever they can to prove their daughter’s innocence, whilst dealing with their own crumbling marriage. Ulrika is having an affair with one of her colleagues, Mikael (Håkan Bengtsson), who also happens to be Stella’s attorney.
Mikael tips off Ulrika about the investigation and the cops ordering a search warrant for their home. Ulrika takes the initiative to look around her daughter’s bedroom and finds a bag of bloodied clothes tucked under her bed. She takes the clothes and Stella’s phone to her father’s room at his retirement home where she hides them away in a dresser drawer for safekeeping.
The series is also interspersed with flashbacks to what happened between the night Stella met Chris and his eventual murder. At first, he seemed like a nice guy, if too old for Stella, but it soon becomes apparent that Chris has a dark side.
His ex-girlfriend, Linda (Emilia Roosmann), even tries warning Stella about him, encouraging her to investigate a cupboard drawer in his home. There, Stella finds a bunch of drugs and from the police investigator, we learn he has a shady criminal past. Adam latches onto this info and even follows Linda to her house one day to see if he can connect her to the murder as a possible suspect.
Elsewhere, Ulrika starts looking into Stella’s friend Amina, who lies to Ulrika about not knowing Chris very well. Through flashbacks, we learn that Amina got a ride home with Chris one night and she acts super sketchy about it.
While all of this is unraveling in the present, the flashbacks begin painting a more sinister portrait of Chris. He tries pushing Stella into letting him photograph her nude despite her obvious discomfort and later comes close to raping her in her parents’ bed as he finds the idea of sleeping in a priest’s bed hot. It’s clear Stella feels threatened in that moment as she finds herself remembering her rape at Robin’s hand. It’s obviously not a good sign if your boyfriend starts reminding you of your rapist.
In the present, Stella remains in custody while awaiting trial. While there, she’s started seeing a therapist who helps her start to come to terms with what happened to her at age 15 and even gets Stella to see that the rape was not her fault.
In a surprising turn of events, Amina shows up at the Sandell house to see Ulrika, revealing that “he wasn’t supposed to die.” She tells Ulrika what really happened with Chris and Ulrika tells Amina not to tell anyone else and to save her story for the trial. After chatting with Amina, Ulrika disposes of all of the evidence she has available to her, including the newfound murder weapon and Stella’s bloody clothes.
Chris becomes increasingly possessive and weird around Stella. Linda tries getting through to Stella one more time, showing up at her house and explaining that the drugs she found in his cupboard are what he uses to drug and take advantage of girls. The next day, Stella starts ignoring Chris’ phone calls and text messages.
In the present, Stella and her parents prepare for the trial.
Through the trial and a series of foreboding flashbacks, we learn that on the night of his murder, Chris followed Amina to the bar where she had planned to meet Stella. There, he tricked her into drinking drugged wine, took her back to his flat, and raped her.
This is what Amina told Ulrika, and Ulrika’s plan was for Amina to tell her side of the story during the trial, not before. Her reasoning being that if the prosecution learns that alternative culprit was near Chris’ flat that night, then suddenly they cannot prove without a reasonable doubt that Stella did it. However, if Amina told the police beforehand, the prosecution would have pivoted to trying to prove Stella and Amina were both complicit.
During Amina’s testimony, she tells the court about what happened with Chris, revealing she abstained from telling the police out of fear she would not be believed. She uses the fact that Chris’ ex, Linda, tried to report Chris and no one listened, and the fact Stella was raped at camp and her parents neglected to report it over fears of no one believing her as proof.
Ultimately, the prosecution really has nothing but a shoe imprint that indicates Stella was near Chris’ flat, and the introduction of Amina as an alternative suspect further muddles their case. Stella is found not guilty of murder.
So, what really happened that night?
In addition to seeing the trial play out, we also see what really happened on the night in question. Chris did indeed drug and rape Amina. Stella snuck into his flat and attacked Chris with bear spray before trying to escape with Amina.
Chris chases them out of his flat while wielding a knife. He trips, drops the knife, and Stella picks it up, fatally stabbing him to death multiple times. So yes, Stella did kill Chris, but clearly it was with a degree of self-defense and you get the sense of catharsis for the justice she never got from her rape at Robin’s hands at age 15, plus as a way to get justice for Amina.
Odds & Ends
- Nothing ever happens to Robin, though Adam does beat him up in a moment of rage and Robin ultimately chooses not to press charges against him, maybe indicating he knows what he did to Adam’s daughter was reprehensible.
- Adam chooses to stop being a priest, though he doesn’t plan to leave the church permanently
- Ulrika starts getting help for her alcoholism
- Adam and Ulrika try to work on their marriage, Ulrika ends her affair with Mikael
- Stella finally fulfills her dream of traveling