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Web Series Review: Unorthodox on Netflix

SeriesUnorthodox
GenreLimited Series Based on A True Story
LanguagesYiddish, English
TNS Score90
Run-Time50m-60m
No. of Episodes4
No. of Seasons1
Original NetworkNetflix
CastShira Haas, Amit Rahav, and Jeff Wilbusch
CreatorMaria Schrader

Plot        

The story revolves around Esther Shapiro, who’s born and raised in a New York Hasidic community. She grows up within the the strict limitations of her community where women only exist to reproduce babies, but this does not limit her power to dream and visualise a better life. It’s a ‘coming of age’ story of Esty (Esther) a young girl who decides to run away from a happiness devoid ‘fruitless’ and loveless marriage. She takes help from her piano teacher and goes to Berlin where her mother who was ousted by the community for sexual choices, stays. Esty finds freedom in expression only when she decides to break through the orthodox norms and traditions of her community.

Writing

The narrative centres Esty and builds upon the deconstruction of the pre-established norms and conditions she’s been brought up with. As Esty arrives in Berlin, she’s alone and clueless but she still has a wish for freedom and dream to follow. The narrative unfolds the harsh realities of the hypocritical gender debate that runs through the community in question and society in general. But the way in which the narrative unfolds, building the tough foundation for the arguments to follow, is simply brilliant.

Conversations between Esty and her grandmother can be marked as the way in which her grandmother has conveniently internalized prejudices against her own gender and pushes her granddaughter to do the same. The final scene where Esty auditions as a pianist are just beautiful, we can see through the scene, the whole journey of Esty’s emergence.

Direction

The otherwise simple narrative talks about a theme much more complex in nature. The gender debate and the flawed social conducts that women are asked to follow, only benefit the foundational set up of the patriarchy. It was thus upon the direction that the audience could understand the gravity of the situation that Esty emerged out of.

To note the brilliance of direction it’s fair to mention the piano audition scene again. When her husband sees her play, he along with us is mesmerized and guilty at the same time. It’s wonderful how the juxtaposition in these two emotions is portrayed on screen.

Performance

Shira Haas deserves all the commendation for the portrayal of Esther Shapiro, in all her natural crudeness and innocence. Amit Rahav has also done a great job, characterizing Yakov Shapiro with his ambiguities. He does what he is told to do without having his own opinion until he, along with Esther, realizes the flawed ideology, he’s been a part of. All the other characters have done great work as well.

Reception

The series garnered eight Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Limited SeriesOutstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series (Shira Haas), Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series (Maria Schrader), and Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series (Anna Winger).

Conclusion

It’s a short series with a lot to absorb, with only four episodes you can binge on it but it’s too great an impact for one day. The narrative is simple, yet complex. It touches upon the theme of gender and flawed ideologies that govern it. With great writing, brilliant direction, and flawless performance, the series becomes something you cannot miss watching.

It also fosters realizations that our privilege must not manifest into ignorance, it’s important to identify the internalised prejudices with respect to the gender debate and stand against the system that objectifies women as property of their father, brother and then later the husband. Women deserve as much freedom of expression as men do, Esty emerges from here.

Watch Trailer:

Unorthodox Trailer

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