UNORTHODOX (2020): The Things I Liked…

Unorthodox (2020), Shira Haas, Netflix.
Unorthodox (2020), Shira Haas, Netflix.

In hopes of learning a little something about the ultra orthodox Jewish experience and also because the trailer was great, I watched Netflix’s four episode miniseries Unorthodox. The story of nineteen year old ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman Esther Shapiro, a.k.a Esty (Shira Haas). Young Esty flees her arranged marriage and very religious community for a new beginning in Berlin, Germany.

Episode one of Unorthodox is one of the best – if not the very best one because it’s well-paced, thrilling and very engaging. It starts on the very day that Esty flees Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York. The story for all the episodes is then told in a clever way that shows us Esty’s life from the day she flees, combined with flashbacks of what her life was before she got married; before the idea of fleeing became the only option.

The reason why the second episode is my least favourite is because the first one set such high expectations, particularly in terms of pacing. So much so that I really couldn’t wait to see precisely when young Esty’s hopes of a happy marriage would be dashed. Especially because her wedding day, though filled with nerves, also included plenty of joy and hopefulness. It’s unfortunate that the wedding day scenes just felt as though they went on for too long. I’m sure that myself identifying with Esty in her nervousness, that combined with my general aversion to being the centre of attention in a big gathering all worked to make the wedding day seem that longer.

Everything I’d been impatient about in the second episode finally starts to unfold in part three. Haas performs brilliantly in all four parts of Unorthodox but I really felt for Esty in this one because it sold the true loneliness and desperation that comes with being a complete outsider.

The final part is perhaps much like the first, very suspenseful because you have no idea how things will really play out. As a person who tries not to take her freedoms for granted, I couldn’t help but admire nineteen year old Esty. Even though she proved naive in a number of ways, her courage in the face of desperation is something to admire.

Unorthodox is a good miniseries with a great story and very talented cast. It answered many questions for me, including those I didn’t even know I had.

In watching Unorthodox, the main challenge you may face besides the slower pace of episode two is probably trying to stop your mind from correcting ‘Esty’ to ‘Etsy‘. I failed miserably at this and I’ve never even shopped at Etsy.

Watch it because it’s good.

Happy Film Loving


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