Netflix Gems is a new segment at SQ where our writers divulge the hidden treats we have found this month that Netflix has to offer. We’ll also tell you which countries they are available in to stream.
Available in: USA, Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, Barbados, Bahamas, Aruba, Argentina, Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, American Samoa
Stories of hiking, where the main characters traverse the wilderness on a journey leading to self-discovery are frequent, such as Wild, Tracks, Into the Wild, and The Way. While Wildlike may share some of their patterns and have a slightly predictable ending, overall it is an incredibly poignant coming-of-age drama. Written and directed by Frank Hall Green, Wildlike tells the story of a 14-year-old girl sent to Alaska to live with her uncle when her mother enters rehab. Mackenzie’s uncle eventually exploits their relationship and begins sexually abusing her. The scenes that depict this abuse are utterly horrifying without being the least bit exploitative. Green sensitively encapsulates the dread, oppressiveness, and horror of this horrendous situation of abuse from what is supposed to be a trusted family member. (It is important to note that these scenes may be triggering. Green does not shy away from depicting these circumstances.) Mackenzie eventually runs away, but finds herself lost within the vast and incredible Alaskan wilderness. With little money and resources, she struggles to make her way back to Seattle to find her mother. Eventually, she begins to shadow a loner backpacker, Barlett, who is also dealing with his own pain. She is drawn to him because he, what I read, reminders her of her recently deceased father. Together, they cross the wilderness and gradually find solace in each other. Their relationship deviates from clichés, as Green crafts an open, honest and complex dynamic that engages you throughout. Child abuse is a difficult subject to approach within film, but it absolutely should be. This is an issue that needs focus and attention. Green’s slow-burn character study takes this situation seriously and depicts it sensitively. Wildlike is yet another example of the incredible independent features that, with the help of Netflix, gain a wider exposure. –Caroline Madden
Available in: USA, Canada
Felt cannot be categorised. Part feminist commentary, part horror and part autobiographical truth, director Jason Bankers collaboration with Amy Everson will still with you for weeks after viewing. We follow Amy, an artist who is learning to deal with the trauma of her past relationships and often violent and aggressive partners. She turns to art for this kind of therapy, creating masks and body suits when she can embody her abusers. The power she gains from these make-believe outings in the forest, covered in minimal nude clothing and garish, even sometimes sex-doll perversion-looking masks leads to a build up of anger and violence in her that she’s never seen before.
The film follows her encounters with various men and her difficulty at approaching new relationships. Everson’s performance is astounding, subtly gliding through the people in her life with a hot-shot tension underneath the surface. She’s innocent yet corrupted and approaches her encounters with a child-like sense of questioning and wonder that almost seems psychotic. She uses her art as a coping mechanism, she makes felt penis’ that she precisely stabs with needles, and underwear with applique felt genitalia that she wears to feel the power of her chosen character that day, dolls and puppets and more adult content scatter the film, but seem innocent because of their materials. The imagery is haunting, juxtaposed and vivid.
The succession of Felt lays not just in its complex yet somehow mystical subject matter, but the fact that was don’t see her abuse in flashbacks, she never speaks of it and none of her friends bring it up. For viewers potentially in similar situations, this makes the content a lot less triggering but universal in its ability to relate to survivors and victims.
Whilst controversial and perhaps shocking at times, Felt is an important feminist film. Although directed by a man it is completely Amy’s, her story, her art and her own healing that we are so wildly invited to share. –Chloe Leeson
Available in: UK, USA, Ireland
Jongens is a beautiful Dutch film (originally made for children’s television) that tells the story of Sieger, a teenage athlete who is struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. He meets Marc, a boy that he’s going to train with for a national relay championship, and the immediate easiness of their relationship soon develops into something else. They’re almost two opposites: Sieger worries too much and doesn’t talk about how he feels, while Marc is outgoing and carefree. Sieger finds it difficult to admit his feelings in a heteronormative world but Marc is unafraid and unashamed.
The film unfolds to scenes of woods, pools, athletic tracks and trampolines. It isn’t plot driven, instead offering a delicate and poetic rendering of a gay teenager’s life and journey to self-acceptance through small moments. It’s the perfect film to watch if you want something easy to watch (with a lovely soundtrack) that still gives depth and nuance to its characters. –Maya-Rose
Available in: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, Sweden, UK, USA
I know that often when people say a certain film or television programme is unlike anything they have ever watched, they are usually exaggerating, but in the case of ‘E-Team’, Netflix’s spotlight on the global investigators of human rights’ abuses and violations, no phrase has ever been more applicable. I have never really seen a documentary as unflinching and as brutal as this look at humanity’s capability for cruelty. Throughout the film, we are taken into the homes of ordinary people that have lost their friends and family to torture, execution and war. Their agony makes for a difficult watch, particularly so when we are presented with the devastating aftermath of a chemical attack; an unimaginably cruel, and prohibited, military tactic. Reality, we are reminded, is a terrible thing. A large part of what makes ‘E-Team’ such a standout documentary is its’ refusal to shy away from the horrors of the world, even in a society in which non-Western issues are so often swept under the rug. Many of the atrocities exposed by Humans Rights Watch members, the central figures of the film, would most likely never have come to light if not for the presence and perseverance of the aforementioned organisation. And it is their commitment to ensuring that these victims’ stories are heard that struck a chord with me, as ‘E-Team’ demonstrates exactly how much of a dedication these activists make to their cause, by including a scene in which one of the documentary’s key protagonists, Anna, agrees to an interview with a major news outlet just hours after she has given birth. It is a scene that elicited a mixed response from me, as I do deeply admire her pledge to defend the human rights of those that are unable to defend themselves but I also cannot begin to imagine the difficulty of raising a family amongst circumstances such as these; a life in which every day at work could end in persecution or worse. ‘E-Team’, then, also raises interesting questions on the subject of being an activist as well as on the issue of morality; exactly how much of an activist’s life should be focused on their work? Can they separate the exposure of human suffering from the relationships they have with their families, their partners, their friends? What happens if they take time off from a job like this, what do the people they help do in that period? These are just a few of the complex concerns that the film explores and they are, ultimately, the most captivating aspects of ‘E-Team’ ; as they allow us to delve into both the overwhelming good and the unthinkable evil that humanity is capable of. –Hannah Ryan