TV’s big hitters of this summer haven’t exactly been an advert for residential stays in exotic places. The literal shit-show that ensued in The White Lotus’s luxurious Maui resort was quickly followed by more weird goings-on in another elite retreat - this time a wellness centre fronted by Nicole Kidman’s creepy Goop-esque guru, Masha, in Nine Perfect Strangers.
Adapted from Liane Moriarty’s book of the same name, the premise is that a gang of strangers - including odd-ball characters played by Bobby Cannavale, Luke Evans, Michael Shannon and Melissa McCarthy - are lured to a beautiful eco-retreat in the hope of spiritually fixing something broken in their lives. However, the daily smoothies, forest bathing and gong baths aren’t all they seem, as the bizarre and controlling Masha seems intent on executing the wildest of all self-help programmes.
But while the psycho-babble and dubious self-improvement practises might be ugly - Moriarty takes no prisoners in her hit at the industrial wellness complex - the location they take place in are far from it. The fictional Tranquillum House we see on screen is a sprawling, glass-fronted estate set between verdant farmland and the crashing ocean, and it boasts rooms impeccably styled with the neutral, lush palate of modern eco-Scandi decor. This place is Architectural Digest front-cover worthy, so naturally we Googled to see if it exists, and more importantly, if we mere mortals can Nama-stay there too.
Reader: you can! But just like Masha’s extreme health masterplan, all is not what it seems.
At the beginning of the series, we’re told the resort is in Cabrillo, California. However, due to Covid restrictions, the production jumped on a plane and headed out to New South Wales - Byron Bay, in particular - in Australia, where the perfect location for the series had been scouted.
Tranquillum House is actually Soma, a retreat and spa in Ewingsdale that blew everyone’s minds when they discovered it. Director Jonathan Levine told Forbes: “The resort itself is such a big character. It was perfect with its amazing woods, jungles and beaches, and captured the feeling we were looking for.”
Soma is set amongst 22 acres of rainforest, was founded by Gary Gorrow and Peter Ostick in 2019 and is described as “a contemporary oasis purpose-built to serve as a sanctuary for retreats and immersive experiences with a goal to elevate creativity and consciousness”. Which sounds right on track for Masha’s vision.
The building was designed by Balinese architect Rieky Sunur, who played around with bringing as much light as possible into the venue, making the whole place look like a sun-kissed nirvana. From the epic outdoor freshwater infinity pool - scene of the tossed grape incident - and the ceremonial fire pit to the geodesic yoga dome in the bamboo forest and the dining room centred around a 23ft-long table carved from a fallen tree in Java, this place is worth a visit.
While travel to Australia right now is obviously not possible, if you want to put it on your bucket list, a weekend meditation retreat at Soma will set you back around $2,500 Australian dollars (around £1,300). Or, at a presumably far more prohibitive cost, the whole place is available to rent out for an undisclosed amount. It might help balance your chakras, but it certainly won’t balance your bank account. Back to the Headspace app it is then.
Nine Perfect Strangers is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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