Our culture reporter Sarah shares her recommendations

First published on: 23rd May 2020

As lockdown wears on, TV and film have been a vital escape. I bring you my reflections on what’s been entertaining me this last week. By Sarah Bradbury.

White Lines – Netflix series

Maybe it’s because we’re all hankering after a bit of sun, sea and sand, Maybe it’s coz there’s literally very little else to do once darkness falls. But Ibiza-set series White Lines had everyone hooked this last week. Despite a seemingly decent budget and stunning settings, it feels more Brit soap abroad rather than screaming high-end glamour. But this in a way is part of its binge-worthy charm.

Laura Haddock plays our Manchester-hailing (anti?) heroine whose arrival on the White Isle to identify the newly-discovered, mummified body of her brother, seemingly murdered 20 years before, triggers chaos and reopens old wounds.

Daniel Mays is her brother’s best mate Marcus, a past-his-prime DJ and drug-dealer living in an Instagram-worthy villa he can’t afford, estranged from a high-class-orgy-running ex-wife (Angela Griffin) he still loves, with a banana boat of cocaine he can’t sell, leaking enough of the white stuff across his lawn to (almost) kill a dog.

The lives of the now-aging Mancunian gang, whose hedonistic, drug-fuelled youth we relive through flashbacks, are revealed to be intertwined with that of the wealthy Spanish Calafat family and their trusty (or is he?) head of security, Boxer (a hunky Nuno Lopes). Cue plenty of Mediterranean melodrama versus Brit lad culture clashes, and a wonderful moment dedicated to the sacrilege of adding chorizo to a paella…

The whole thing is unashamedly ridiculous but the sun-drenched settings, debauched, sexually-explicit scenes and genuine thriller-esque who-dunnit intrigue make for a brilliant way to pass some hours.

It will leave you gagging to throw on a floaty kaftan over your tanned skin and breathe in that salty, sea air while sipping on an ice-cold cocktail to a deep techno beat somewhere far far away from here…

Antiviral Wipe – BBC iPlayer

Whether you or not you’re already familiar with Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe (the most recent end-of-year Annual Wipe from 2016 won a Bafta), this one is a must-watch. From the mind behind the dystopian Black Mirror series comes a special commentary on the last few months of the unfolding pandemic: how we and our government have reacted and the highs and lows of lockdown.

Dripping with both satirical and slapstick humour – and a spot of door handle-licking thrown in for good measure – I think the show would be even funnier if it weren’t just a little too close to the bone. Usually there’s a retrospective element to his Screenwipe, with some distance between you and the events he sends ups.

But here, there are more than just a few moments where you don’t know whether to laugh or cry, as you watch Boris Johnson boast about shaking hands with coronavirus patients, the rampant panic-buying of early lockdown or celebrities performing ridiculous hand-washing demonstrations.

Regular talking heads, Barry Shitpeas and Philomena Cunk, are on fine form, but the absurdity of their suggestions no longer sound that mad in the context of world leaders recommending ingesting Dettol as a cure.

But perhaps therein lies the catharsis: to have our newfound bonkers reality reflected back to us in stark and sharp focus as a way of being able to better assimilate it.

It left me wondering, if the events of the last few months had been represented in a TV show last year, you’d have no doubt thought many of them too far fetched even for a Black Mirror episode…

Unorthodox – Netflix series

Many of you recommended this one to me in my last call out and I now understand why. It’s an utterly unique four-part series that delves into the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn and one woman’s attempt to leave it for Berlin.

Loosely based on Deborah Feldman’s 2012 memoir Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots (the latter part of the story diverges from her own), the unerring attention to detail in capturing the customs, clothes as well as the language – most of the series is in Yiddish – of this community makes it more akin to a documentary than a fictional series.

In fact I highly recommend also watching Netflix’s accompanying “making of” programme after you watch it to fully understand what went into achieving it and what a revelation it is for many from that community to see their own lives reflected on the small screen.

Israeli actress Shira Haas is remarkable as Esty, conveying her sense of being a misfit, simultaneously fragile and vulnerable as well as headstrong and brave. Fascinating and moving, it’s not like anything I’ve ever watched before. And in our era of content saturation, that’s quite a statement.

Devs – BBC iPlayer series

From the director of Ex-Machina and Annihilation, Alex Garland, comes another cerebral sci-fi offering, this time a series. Set in, and no doubt making a cynical comment on, Silicon Valley in San Francisco, it follows employee of tech company Amaya, Lily (Sonoya Mizuno) who goes on a quest to discover what’s behind its top-secret project, Devs, after a devastating incident involving her Russian coder boyfriend Sergei (Karl Glusman).

The critique of big tech and its egocentric leaders is not too subtle, with the name of the project itself being Deus or God and the billionaire head honcho Forest (Nick Offerman) clearly having ideas of himself as a deity of sorts.

The whole thing is impeccably crafted aesthetically, almost to a fault – I sometimes found my attention waning as yet another scene unfolded, heavy with pregnant pauses and clever angled shots.

My tech-geek of a husband I think found it more enthralling, perhaps for the detail and lengths it goes to immerse you in a world of hackers, coding and technology he knows far more about than me (for reference he was also an obsessive fan of Mr Robot).

But overall I’d recommend giving it a watch for something to get your brain going down a mindbend of a wormhole Matrix-style plus for the badass edge to our fearless, androgynous lead in Sonoya.

What have you been watching lately? Share your recommendations for what we should watch and why!