Binge-r #86: The Rain + Happy!
THE RAIN S1
Streaming Service: Netflix
Availability: All eight episodes now streaming
Netflix does not want you to have a relaxing European vacation. From Germany the streaming service conjured up the grim brain-bending mystery Dark, while a killer systematically hunts a group of friends in the recent French thriller The Chalet. Denmark’s offering is The Rain, a post-apocalyptic adventure set in a Scandinavia where virus-laden precipitation has culled the populace and destroyed society. Seen through the eyes of two young siblings who’ve spent six years locked away in a bunker, the show is an end of the world exploration that treats the ludicrous premise – beware of puddles! – with a straight face as the ultimate debate is between the struggle to survive and the need to nurture hope.
Deposited underground by their scientist father, who leaves in a hazmat suit with the conspiracy-friendly words, “I’m the only one who can fix this”, Simone (Alba August) and Rasmus (Lucas Lynggaard Tonnesen) witness the beginning of the end. The falling rain contains a virus that induces acute allergic and respiratory reaction while contaminating the water cycle. They grow up, marked by family trauma, in a hideaway built by their father’s biotech employer, whose research appears to have gone disastrously wrong. “It sucks,” Simone tells Rasmus when she ventures outside, and the writing never forgets these are overgrown children with hazy hopes and wayward emotions, particularly in the case of Erasmus, who has gone through puberty with only his sister for company.
The survivors in a strange new world premise encompasses The Day of the Triffids and The Walking Dead, but creators Jannik Tai Mosholt, Christian Potalivo, and Esben Toft Jacobsen lean towards the physical risk and emotional resonance of YA literature. When the pair venture out they fall in with a raincoat-wearing group of survivors, led by a former soldier, Martin (Mikkel Folsgaard), whose experiences with the outbreak are among the illustrative flashbacks. The lessons they learn are as dark as the ominous rain clouds that are periodically cut to, while other members of the group, such as the sometimes slippery Beatrice (Angela Bundalovic) come into focus.
Simone and Rasmus’ quest to find their father is conflated with a mystery about the cause of the virus tied to a disease the latter had as a child, and the question of who else has lasted and how much of the wider world is gone. Given their susceptibility to teenage distractions I don’t know how any of these wanderers can expect to stay dry and unharmed, but the storytelling is neatly paced and the main characters engaging (apart from Rasmus, who you may join me in disliking). If you can buy into the premise this is a drama both about and for teens, which has similarities to the recent Lost in Space reboot as the near misses lean towards a thrill over terror. Your move, Austria.
>> Old Shows/New Seasons: Netflix has added second seasons of two shows I liked (with some reservations) in 2017. If you’re interested in the dystopic Brazilian thriller 3% read my season one commentary [full review here], and the same goes with the African-American campus satire Dear White People [full review here].
>> Other Reading: I wrote about the “radical parameters” created by the two SBS on Demand seasons of Donald Glover’s Atlanta, one of the finest shows of recent times, for The Monthly [full review here].
In Brief: Happy! (Netflix): A juiced up, ultraviolent fantasia where the pop of New York’s neon is as bright as the cynicism is bleakly black, Happy! is a screw loose redemption tale. Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni) is a seemingly irredeemable former police detective working as a hitman who is summoned from his drunken depths by Happy, the not so imaginary friend (voiced by Patton Oswalt) of a little girl who has been kidnapped by the Very Bad Santa (Joseph D. Reitman). The mismatched air go from one bloody encounter to the next, with a whiff of supernatural gore to augment the sociopath games, and Meloni plays the lead role with scummy finesse; you can’t help but see a warped reflection of his other NYPD character, the noble Elliot Stabler from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. “Had hangovers worse than this,” he declares after waking from the latest attempt to kill him, and the series has a gonzo energy derived from crossing Who Framed Roger Rabbit with the Crank movies.
JUST ADDED MOVIES
New on Netflix: Alex Gibney’s comprehensive and coruscating documentary on the failings of the Church of Scientology, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015, 119 minutes); Downfall (2004, 155 minutes) is the German historic drama that spawned a thousand Hitler videos, but Olivier Hirschbiegel’s film is also a compelling study of a nightmarish regime’s end.
New on SBS On Demand: One of David Lynch’s most dreamy, dislocating features, Lost Highway (1997, 129 minutes) turns male identity into a perverse journey; The Loving Story (2017, 74 minutes) goes deep into the archives to reveal the American couple, Richard and Mildred Loving, whose mixed-race marriage took them to the Supreme Court (and inspired the recent dramatic feature Loving).
New on Stan: Another romantic comedy that’s prospered outside the Hollywood system, The Big Sick (2017, 120 minutes) is funny, bittersweet celebration of how we’re drawn to have love in our lives, and the barriers that must be surmounted. Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani is the Muslim-American comedian from Chicago who has to win back the allegiance of Zoe Kazan’s disappointed girlfriend through her parents.
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