21 days of lockdown is a fairly long time. But it’s also not too long when you consider just how much content there is to binge-watch on different streaming platforms—which have seen a spike in subscribers since people began social distancing.
To cope with the self-isolation, here’s an off-beat list that has British shows and Brazilian dramas and American documentaries.
Feel Good - Netflix
Created by Canadian comedienne Mae Martin, and Joe Hampson, Feel Good is a British show, originally made for Channel 4, and distributed by Netflix globally. The show explores the complexities of a queer person’s adventures and mis(adventures) in finding love and belonging as they battle problems of addiction and parental ambivalence. Co-creator Mae Martin plays one of the protagonists (the show is semi-autobiographical) and is terrific in her part as is Charlotte Ritchie, who plays their lover, and Lisa Kurdrow.
Other than its razor-sharp wit and occasionally dark humour, the victory of Feel Good is how it compels us to constantly shift our allegiance between characters as they gently reveal themselves. It also creates a highly believable love story where, many times, we see that neither of the two people are wrong in their respective positions. Love is messy, complex, irrational, stupid, repulsive and yet, it’s what we end up rooting for. Feel Good gets that.
The Outsider - Hotstar
Based on the Stephen King novel by the same name (but adapted with some changes), The Outsider is good old HBO slowburn, the kind that’s delicious and terrifying in equal measure. On the surface, it’s similar to Broadchurch, the terrific Olivia Colman show, also about an investigation into a young boy’s murder—it’s on Netflix and you should watch it if you haven’t already—but The Outsider goes much darker, into spooky, supernatural territory while still being committed to authenticity. Developed by Richard Price (his resume includes gems such as The Feud, The Night Of and The Wire), The Outsider isn’t an easy show to consume but it’s immensely rewarding if you stay with it.
The Report - Amazon Prime
Scott Z. Burns, one of the sharpest screenwriters today (he wrote Contagion, if that reminds you of something), directs this Adam Driver CIA drama that plays out like a nail-biting thriller. Driver plays a Senate staffer who’s tasked with the responsibility of leading the investigation into the CIA’s destruction of video tapes and use of ’Enhanced Interrogation Technique) that would have exposed the brutal torture techniques (waterboarding, sleep deprivation, mock burials and rectal rehydration) employed by the agency.
Inspired by the real-life story of Daniel Jones, The Report is a solid political thriller that works as a counter to CIA hagiography such as Zero Dark Thirty that justified the use of torture as a valuable tool in nabbing Osama Bin Laden. Driver is phenomenal (as he mostly is) as a dogged investigator out to call out the CIA’s deviant tactics despite considerable pressure from the Obama administration to bury the report.
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness - Netflix
Among one of the spookiest, strangest and the most shocking true crime documentaries to come out (HBO’s mind boggling The Act comes close), Tiger King traces the story of Joe Exotic, a zoo operator from Oklahoma and his rivalry with a local animal rights activist (Carole Baskin) determined to shut his business down. What starts off as a petty ideological war soon turns into a dark and sinister egoistical battle, with guns, snakes, and arson thrown into the mix.
A tight, riveting docu-drama, the show points to the horrors of the uniquely American obsession of weapons and animals, painting Exotic as someone who operated and succeeded through sheer cult of personality, a desire for drama and an insatiable quest for both, power and entertainment.
Bacurau - Mubi
This mind-bending Brazilian drama, nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival (it ended up with a jury prize) is as thrilling as it is disturbing and singularly captures the sociopolitical havoc engulfing present-day Brazil. Writing anything more about the plot of the film will amount to a spoiler (one of its co-directors, Kleber Mendonça Filho, directed the equally terrific Aquarius, if that helps).
In Bacurau, the directors draw from a quintessential Western treatment, stylise the narrative with a trippy score, wild transitions, and some arresting imagery. But more importantly, Bacurau is a fearless, clever indictment of Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro and the havoc his leadership has caused to the country. Predictably, the film caused a firestorm in Brazil, with the government even asking Filho to return the $500,000 it provided to fund his first film, Neighboring Sounds.