A Netflix miniseries (four one hour episodes), Unorthodox provides a rare insight into the Hasidic, ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in Brooklyn.
Based loosely on a true story, a recently married, pregnant Esther (Israeli actress Shira Haas, Broken Mirrors, Princess) flees the oppressive life style for Berlin. The insular Satmar community dispatch her young, naive husband, Yanky, and a world-wise, mercurial cousin, Moishe, to bring her (and, more importantly, the future baby) back to the fold.
Directed by Maria Schrader (Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe, The Giraffe), Unorthodox is at its tender best when exploring Esther and Yanky’s struggles as newlyweds and the pressures and interference from his family. The more fictional narrative of Berlin and the city’s impact of the past, whilst engaging, has less focus and less substance: it spreads itself too thinly as Yanky, Moishe and Esther’s new-found friends (a convenient mix of Israelis, Arabs, Germans, gay, straight etc…) all have their ‘moments’.
But all in all, it’s a poignant, well-told story that, in not following a straightforward chronology of time, maintains interest and fascination throughout. (And it’s not everyday that you see a TV miniseries where Yiddish is, along with English, the main language).
A Netflix Original