Entertainment

'Unorthodox' Review: Netflix's Yiddish Miniseries Turns Hasidic Rebellion Into a Riveting Thriller


However, director Maria Schrader and creator Anna Winger (“Deutchland 83”) has transformed this familiar template into a riveting thriller, rich with the struggles of a young woman seeking her individuality, and the unnerving efforts of men convinced they can stop her.


As fictionalized Feldman stand-in Esty, Haas encapsulates an intimate saga defined by the limbo of feeling trapped between two worlds: As the story begins, she slips away from her community in the midst of Sabbath ceremonies, unbeknownst her new husband Yanky (Amit Rahav), a feeble young Hasid unaware that his wife is bears their child.


“Unorthodox” risks unwieldy thematic territory when it takes the historical long view, but ultimately manages to encapsulate the unusual fragmentation of Jewish life across multiple generations, and how it bears down on younger lives who want to move ahead.


Cinematographer Wolfgang Thaler (whose credits include Ulrich Seidl’s disturbing “Paradise” trilogy) contributes an eerie, austere atmosphere to Esty’s dilemma, with sophisticated camerawork that grounds the story in revealing closeups and complex tableaus of Hasidic routine.


At times, “Unorthodox” teeters on the edge of soapy melodrama, particularly in its modern-day scenes of the character engaging with her new companions, and meandering moments that overstate Esty’s transformational experience (when she purges herself in the water, letting her wig float away, the story almost takes on Catholic undertones).


But the Dardenne brothers have never probed the depths of Hasidic Williamsburg, and to that end, “Unorthodox” feels like a modest revelation: It uses familiar language to explore what it means to push beyond the strictures of ritual and community guidelines by digging into the mindset of a woman battling to think for herself.






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