As a self-appointed reviewer of Netflix’s filmic output, I have watched and reviewed a lot of the films on the streaming service. I have tended to review films that have either been released this year or in 2018 and maybe a few from a couple of years previous. Not that there are no films before that period that interest me, it is just that, generally, older films have already been extensively reviewed.
In this media-saturated world, where we can all get our opinions out into the world in moments, in a sea of said opinions, as much as I believe that my view is interesting, it is no more interesting or relevant than any other reviewers.
I try to review films that are a little bit obscure, which is why I suffer so many atrocious films, and, given my somewhat haphazard and belated attempts to master the Spanish language, a lot of foreign—mostly Spanish language—films.
Just like in English language films, there are some pretty weak efforts in foreign language films. Conversely, there are films that, not given the promotion that many an English language film receives, slip through the cracks. To that end, I have listed five foreign films that I think are worth having a look at on Netflix.
The first film I am going to recommend is The Laws of Thermodynamics, which is a cleverly filmed Spanish comedy, with wonderful performances from everyone on show and a great central performance by Vito Sanz as the neurotic Manel.
Briefly, the film follows the love life of Manel, a teaching assistant for a professor in astrophysics, and how he relates everything, especially relationships, to thermodynamics. An amusing and clever film, The Laws of Thermodynamics is definitely worth searching out on Netflix.
The second film I am going to suggest is The Bar. Starring the beautiful Bianca Suarez – best known for her turn in Cable Girls also on Netflix—The Bar is an ensemble thriller that moves at a relentless pace. At one hundred minutes long, it is non-stop tension from eight minutes in up until the final credits. Yes, it is another Spanish language film.
The story sees Suarez’s Elena walk into a cafe/bar in the opening minutes because her mobile dies on her. She wants to charge it a little before going on to a date she is heading to. In the bar, we meet all the other characters in the film, plus a few others who also come into the bar in the first few minutes. When a businessman leaves the bar and is shot and killed, then another who goes to help him is also killed, the eight people in the bar realise they are trapped in there.
The acting from everyone in this film is top draw, with the seriousness of their predicament exposing their foibles and characteristics and their instincts for self-preservation. The Bar is a film that I would and do highly recommend.
A departure from Spanish language films, the next film you may want to seek out on Netflix is the emotionally challenging All Is Well or Alles Ist Gut as it is known in German. All Is Well is not a film to enjoy. Much like the holocaust in Schindler’s List, it tackles a subject, sexual assault, that is difficult to fathom.
What is very different from a lot of films that have tackled the subject of sexual assault is the absolute focus on the central character, Janne, played with great and deserved acclaimed by Aenne Schwarz. This is not a film about revenge for the act or injustice. It is a film about living with and dealing with a wrong you cannot talk about.
All Is Well is uncomfortably normal in its telling of the story. Once again, the acting is first-rate from everyone involved but it is Schwarz performance that is heart wrenching and powerful. All Is Well is by no means a feel-good film and, strangely, that is a good thing. Watch it.
My fourth pick is another Spanish film. It actually edges out another Spanish film, In Family, I Trust, to get into my top five. The film is the brilliantly written and quirky comedy, We Need To Talk or Tenemos Que Hablas.
When Nuria (Michelle Jenner) accepts a marriage proposal from Victor (Ilay Kuralovic) she realises that she will have to contact her estranged husband, Jorge (Hugo Silva) for a divorce. Knowing he is in a delicate place in his life, Nuria is reluctant to break the news of her impending nuptials to him.
We Need To Talk is a delightful farce that speeds along nicely over its runtime. With a clever and funny script by Diego San José and David Serrano, the film is ninety minutes of amusement that is worth a look.
My final pick is a French version of a film that has been made in Italian, the original, and Spanish, two versions in Spanish, one European and one Mexican. The film is Nothing To Hide or Le Jeu, Italian: Perfetti Sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers), Spanish: Perfectos Desconocidos.
It was the French version I watched, though I did watch an English dubbed version. The dubbing cannot detract from the acting, however, which is excellent. The story is of seven friends having dinner who decide to put their mobile phones on the table and read out or listen to every incoming call or message.
Nothing To Hide is a brilliant film and story, especially in modern times where everybody’s lives are connected to their phones. Set in a small apartment and around, mostly, two locations, the film challenges the notion of how well one knows the people closest to them.
Undoubtedly it is a story that resonates, with the original having been made in 2016 and the three further versions being made in the following two years. Nothing To Hide is a film I would most definitely recommend to give a look.
There are, of course, other good foreign films I have watched on Netflix—Chopsticks, Furie, No Estoy Loco, The Tribe, Blind Date, Jefe, Mirage—but I would have to say that the five I have chosen are probably some of the better ones I have watched, though having said that I would also urge you to give the French film, Blind Date a look, so good! So, that is my top five, with a couple of extra recommendations.