What to watch on Netflix: Week of 3/24

Matthew Ellmore/Staff Writer

Netflix offers a wide array of content for its viewers to watch, and it can be daunting to skim through its large collection to try and find something that interests you. However, there are some documentaries, series, and movies that are available on Netflix and that stand out from the rest. Some of them may be well-known, others may not. Hopefully, you can find something that interests you.

“Girl” (2019)

Lukas Dhont’s debut feature, “Girl,” made waves when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was even considered worthy of an Oscar nominee. “Girl” is about a 15-year-old trans woman named Lara who attends a very prestigious ballerina school. Lara takes hormone treatments and is planning on undergoing sexual reassignment surgery. But as Lara’s life as a ballerina becomes more and more competitive, the physical demands of dance, the social influences of her peers and her own adolescence begin to mar her view of her body.  Coupled with the grace of ballet, the movie shifts between gentle and gut-wrenching moments. While she tries to keep up with ballet training, she also fights her own body to maintain the image that she wants. The directors even use this theme to affect other aspects of the show, relying more on visuals and body language than on dialogue. In fact, much of the pressure that Lara feels comes internally. Lara’s father and mother are both extremely supportive of her decisions and, despite a few humiliating mishaps, the girls in her class are very accepting of her. Because this is such a different approach from most films dealing with outside forces that interfere with the LGBTQ community, the severity of Lara’s feelings comes across crystal clear. Even though most of the people she associates with are on her side, she is still not okay with who she is. It’s clear that there are many people in the world who have trouble understanding the transgender community, but rather than give those views any sort of attention, “Girl” focuses on its subject and how she feels about her own body.

“The OA” (2016-2019)

The first season of “The OA” was released in 2016, and despite very little promotion or information on the series itself, it received critical praise for its strange mix of genres. With the upcoming release of its second season, the show has garnered even more of a mysterious aura, with Netflix asking journalists to conceal certain plot points before the second season premieres. The first season followed Prairie Johnson, a woman who resurfaces after going missing for seven years. She begins to call herself “The OA” and, even though she was blind when she disappeared, she now has her eyesight back. Rather than tell the FBI who she is or where she’s been, The OA gathers a group of five locals to speak to. During their weekly meetings, she reveals more information about herself and her life story. She also claims that there are other missing people and asks for this group’s help in trying to find them. The OA believes she can rescue these people by opening a portal, but she needs the group’s help to create it. Although it sounds far-fetched, the first season was surprisingly grounded. There were definitely things that remained unexplained, but they added to the mystery of the show. The second season only expands upon the bizarre and supernatural, taking our group and The OA through time and into an alternate reality. The show still holds the serious, spiritual and sci-fi-tones as in the first season, but the second season is much more puzzling. Some may be put off by the confusing nature of the show, but it’s one of the many aspects that make “The OA”  stand out.

“The Dawn Wall” (2019)

“The Dawn Wall” is a documentary that follows free climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s ascent up the “Dawn Wall,” a 3,000-foot wall on the El Capitan rock formation in Yosemite National Park. Before Caldwell and Jorgeson’s ascent in January 2015, the climb was thought of as an impossible feat, but the two men would eventually prove the world wrong. The documentary tells the story of the two climbers’ journey prior to the Dawn Wall and how those pasts played a part in their climbs. It goes far beyond the physical, placing a lot of emphasis on the emotional aspects of the two climbers.  Caldwell’s story in particular feels unbelievable at times. When he was a teenager, he was kidnapped in Kyrgyzstan and was forced to push his captor off of a cliff. A few years later, he cut off a finger using a table saw and, a few years after that, his wife divorced him, forcing Caldwell to find a new climbing partner in Kevin Jorgeson. When the film does focus on the actual rock-climbing parts of Caldwell and Jorgeson’s story, its explanation of the challenges and terminology are easy to understand. The filmmakers decide to forgo minute details and let the story and its images speak for itself. It’s balanced between light-hearted conversations and the climbers themselves, with the drama and intensity that’s inherent in the situation. Much attention is also paid to the surrounding area of Yosemite. When the film explains how difficult it is to climb the Dawn Wall, it can be hard to think of a reason why people would risk their lives to climb it. But when the directors include shots of the surrounding nature and its beauty, you can’t help but marvel at the park. As we learn more about who the climbers are and why this feat is so amazing, “Dawn Wall” becomes less of a sports movie and more of a journey between two friends. The fact that the movie provides a first-person perspective of the event really allows for a more intimate relationship to unfold. Caldwell and Jorgeson’s climb is never easy and both men run into their fair share of problems, but they manage to do so with determination and respect for one another.

Featured image by Gabriella Pinos.

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