We all know when it comes to streaming, there are 2 platform categories: Netflix, and Everything Else. All this time in lockdown has provided me with a chance to spread my streaming wings and make use of the free trial periods on Everything Else. So I thought I’d share my reviews of the gems I uncovered.
Little Fires Everywhere – Amazon Prime Video
Based on the bestselling book by Celeste Ng, this 8-part family drama encompasses an array of topical issues with thought-provoking sensitivity. The story runs on twin tracks – there is the escalating antagonism between the two leads: the Stepford Wife character played to perfection by Reese Witherspoon, and the enigmatic single mother who moves to town, played with grit and ferocity by Kerry Washington of Scandal fame. Their rising tensions when it comes to how they parent their children run parallel to the lives of the teenagers themselves, who bring an abundance of acting talent to their complex roles. The series is able to explore issues relating to race, gender, sexuality, popularity, marriage, parenthood and privilege with poignancy despite being only 8 episodes long. The ending is a kicker and makes you hope they will invent a second season. One of the best dramas I’ve seen this decade.
Run – Foxtel Now
For fans of offbeat dark comedies, this one has an intriguing premise. Imagine if you had a pact with the guy you used to date in college, that if one day in the future you reached a moment where you grew tired of your humdrum life, if you texted the word RUN to each other you’d both abandon your day to day reality to meet up on a cross-country train leaving Grand Central Station for a week of obscurity. This happens to our characters, who haven’t seen each other for 17 years when one has a career-ending crisis and the other is sitting in a carpark wondering how they ended up in a meaningless marriage running family errands. Not only do the 2 leads have some of the best first names in the biz – Domhnall Gleeson (aka our favourite ginger who played General Hux in the latest Star Wars trilogy) and Merritt Wever, but there’s even a minor character with my name (although spelt differently). Trust me, as someone who could never find their name on personalised mugs or keyrings growing up, this becomes kinda a big deal to you 😛 Weaving from romance to comedy to bungled crime hijinks, you’ll also love it when Phoeber Waller-Bridge pops up as a taxidermist no less.
Normal People – Stan
Also based on a book, this tale of unrequited teen love is made even more special with the added bonus of delightful Irish accents. Connell and Marianne are opposite ends of the popularity spectrum in their final year of school, yet find themselves entering into a torrid secret affair. Connell makes a classic popular guy mistake, causing them to split as they begin to navigate their college years and the popularity tables are turned. What ensues is a series of events that prompts the will they/won’t they stay together premise, with an achingly beautiful storyline. Whilst I still haven’t accepted the ending, and honestly sometimes Marianne just needed to get out of her own way, the raw acting talent of Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal means you can’t look away from this emotional train wreck. Their chemistry is so real they can even make reciting Gordon Ramsey episodes for a James Corden skit sound profound (“why are you serving canned crab?”). I simply cannot believe this is Paul Mescal’s first major acting gig – he’ll make you cry in moments you wouldn’t expect. Plus, his character’s necklace even has its own Instagram.
Morning Wars – Apple TV
The writing is so on-point, the drama so relentless and the characters so effortlessly played that you will feel Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon really are morning TV anchors. Set within a TV station facing its #MeToo crisis moment, the show explores various transgressions, and the grey area of workplace relationships, all whilst making you want to laugh and cry. The closing episodes literally had me on the edge of my seat, and special mention must go to Mark Duplass for his portrayal of the beleaguered show EP Chip Black, and Billy Crudup for playing the kooky network exec dancing the fine line between villain and antihero. I am hyped for the second season.
Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian – Disney+
As a self-confessed Star Wars geek, I admit I was a little apprehensive about The Mandalorian when I first began watching it. By the end, I was loving it. But this behind the scenes 8-part docuseries is one of the best “DVD extras even though this is not a DVD” I’ve seen. Rather than awkward sound bites of actors and crew propped in director chairs in front of random set backdrops assembled into a bunch of featurettes, this show is designed as a progression of roundtable discussion led by showrunner Jon Favreau. The episode where they reveal The Volume, the jaw-dropping, room-sized immersive virtual screen effect that will revolutionise the future use of green screen tech, will make your senses pop. Plus hearing Dave Filoni’s take on Episodes 1-3 will forever alter your opinion of the prequel storyline. A must for all Star Wars buffs.