This week contains one of my most anticipated series of the year, “Pachinko”. The South Korean co-production premieres its first three episodes on Apple TV today, and it looks stunning. If you aren’t watching series from other countries and in other languages, I really urge you to start – whether it’s with this or something else that catches your eye.
When I named my choices for the top 10 shows from 2021, I highlighted series from France, Japan, Turkey, and two from South Korea. If I’d done a top 11, a series from Jordan would have found its way in, too. So much of our boredom with watching the same thing every day arises from the majority of our viewing coming from the same perspectives every day. Switch up those perspectives, and film and TV become a lot more exciting and unexpected.
Pachinko (Apple TV) showrunner Soo Hugh
“Pachinko” tracks a Korean family’s course starting from the Japanese occupation of Korea, and their lives in both countries. It stars Yuh-jung Youn, who won an Oscar last year for “Minari”, and is based on the novel by Min Jin Lee.
Showrunner Soo Hugh wrote on “The Killing” and wrote and produced on “Under the Dome”, “The Terror”, and “See”.
You can watch “Pachinko” on Apple TV. The first three episodes are available right now, with a new episode arriving every Friday for a total of eight.
You Are Not My Mother (VOD) directed by Kate Dolan
Char’s mother goes missing near their North Dublin home, so she sets out to investigate what’s happened to her.
Writer-director Kate Nolan started out as a photographer, and later a music video director. This is her first feature film.
It’s funny when weeks take on themes. The week after Valentine’s Day is apparently the time for TV shows about affairs and breakups. Everyone all right out there? I’ve got to look at past years and see if this is a regular occurrence, or just a coincidence this week.
It’s also a time for horror movies, and this is something I know is pretty common to February. Composed of mid-budget and low-budget films, horror likes to lurk where event movies don’t. Superhero and action films are waiting for those prime summer dates, so they aren’t sucking up all the audience right now. That provides an opportunity for films that lack the marketing budget to compete – and these days, that typically means horror, which has found a lot of success in these off-peak months.
I’ll also point out that a new Celine Sciamma film drops this week. It doesn’t fall into either of those categories, but as the filmmaker behind “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”, “Girlhood”, and “Tomboy”, Sciamma has a strong argument as the best director working today.
Netflix has a number of short films debuting by both women and men this week. This includes Ashley Eakin’s directorial project “Forgive Us Our Trespasses”, a 13 minute short about a disabled boy who must escape Germany’s Aktion T4 program during Nazi rule. The program of forced euthanasia resulted in the murder of 300,000 disabled people in Austria, Germany, occupied Poland, and parts of what is now the Czech Republic, often with the aid of regional Catholic and Protestant authorities.
Marielle Woods directs Netflix short “Heart Shot”, a 19 minute film about two teenagers in love, but facing an unspoken danger. Woods has worked on stunts for “John Wick: Chapter 2”, “Baby Driver”, “Bright”, and stunt coordinated on “Westworld”.
New projects this week come from Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, Sweden, the U.K., and the U.S.
Aftertaste (Acorn TV) showrunner Julie De Fina
Easton West is a celebrity chef with anger issues who burns all his bridges and has to retreat to his hometown in Adelaide, Australia. There, he takes on starting a new, more humble restaurant with an unexpected partner.
Julie De Fina created the show with Matthew Bate and showruns and writes on it.
You can watch “Aftertaste” on Acorn TV. All six episodes are available immediately.
Lov3 (Amazon) half directed by Mariana Youssef
In this Brazilian series, three siblings navigate dating by pursuing unconventional relationships in the wake of their parents’ separation. There’s no English trailer available, but the series itself does have English options.
Mariana Youssef directs three of the six episodes. It’s her first time directing on a series; she’s previously worked on documentaries and short films. “Lov3” was co-created by Rita Moraes.
You can watch “Lov3” on Amazon. All six episodes are available immediately.
Fishbowl Wives (Netflix) half directed by Namiki Michiko
Sakura Hiraga lives a glamorous life of luxury that hides her husband’s abusive behavior from others. Unable to leave, she makes a connection with another man that reminds her of the dreams she’s given up. She’s just one of six women who pursue affairs in the Japanese series “Fishbowl Wives”.
Namiki Michiko directs at least four of the eight episodes. She’s directed a number of Japanese films and series, including the modernized 2019 adaptation of “Les Miserables”.
You can watch “Fishbowl Wives” on Netflix. All eight episodes are available immediately.
Petite Maman (MUBI) directed by Celine Sciamma
Nelly is a girl who’s lost her grandmother. She goes on a trip to help her parents clean out her grandmother’s home. Exploring the forest there, she meets another girl building a treehouse. The French film is told from a child’s perspective.
Writer-director Celine Sciamma is the first name that comes to mind when you ask me about the best director working today. She directed “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” and my #3 pick for best films of the 2010s, “Girlhood”.
Sienna Guillory plays Holly, a widowed mother who tries to cope with her daughter Betsey declaring her body now belongs to a higher power. Betsey refuses to eat, but doesn’t suffer or lose weight, and Holly is forced to contend with who or what this higher power may be.
Ruth Paxton started as a production designer and art director, and has written and directed several shorts that interpret painting and dance. This is her feature-length debut.
After undergoing a trauma and a stay in a psychiatric ward, Molly moves into a new apartment. Yet she keeps hearing knocking. She can’t sleep or live a normal life, and no one else hears it or believes her. “Knocking” is adapted by Emma Brostrom from the novel by Johan Theorin.
Frida Kempff is a Swedish director who’s primarily helmed documentaries before this. “Knocking” is her first narrative feature.
Horror Noire (AMC+) co-directed by Zandashe Brown, Robin Givens
This anthology film presents six horror stories from Black directors and screenwriters. Tony Todd, Peter Stormare, and Lesley-Ann Brandt star.
Zandashe Brown is a relatively new director. Robin Givens is known for her acting career, which has ranged from “Head of the Class” to “Riverdale”. This is her third feature as director, and she’s helmed some episodes on “Riverdale”.
You can watch “Horror Noire” on AMC+.
The Space Between (Hulu, Paramount+) directed by Rachel Winter
Kelsey Grammar plays an eccentric rock musician who’s losing track of reality. He has to contend with the people his label sends to force him out of his contract, but may be on the verge of rediscovering his music.
Rachel Winter has produced on films like “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Krystal”. This is her first feature as director.