At the beginning of 2021, Netflix promised to release a new film every week to boost their content production and add to viewer satisfaction. True to their word, they have been doing so almost every week, providing ample content for us to binge on.
Given how our dwindling sanity was held together by their giving nature throughout the pandemic, we are eternally grateful to the streaming service. However, increased content creation does not ensure quality retention. More often than not, in their pursuit of generating more content, Netflix has had to compromise on the quality of the narrative, the form, the style and more. They have often roped in heavyweight names whose presence has not been able to serve as a saving grace to a nearly horrendous script.
However, as the year comes to a close, let us focus more on the highs than the lows. 2021 has been a pretty epic year for the channel, with them producing plenty of Original films, including big-budget ones like Red Notice, starring Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot, albeit with its lukewarm reception. December is a pretty promising month as the streamer has in store for us some pretty huge films like that of Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog that stars Benedict Cumberbatch. The film has already received plenty of applause at the various film festivals and will surely fare well on the streamer.
We are also looking forward to Adam McKay’s allegorical thriller, Don’t Look Up, which features a stellar ensemble, including Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Timothee Chalamet, Ron Pearlman, Jonah Hill and more. Besides, Netflix has also a line-up of other riveting films like The Lost Daughter starring Olivia Colman that has already generated quite the buzz.
However, despite these huge releases on their way, it is safe to assume that Netflix has already blown our minds with some of the content it has produced till the month of November. While it was a very profitable turnover in terms of series, with Korean productions like Squid Game, My Name and Hellbound contributing to the Korean pop-cultural high, films have followed closely behind. Films like Malcolm & Marie, Pieces of a Woman, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Concrete Cowboy, and above all, the recent release, tick, tick…boom! has helped exhibit the streamer’s prowess in detecting and producing good content once in a while.
In his brutally honest reflection of withering love, Sam Levinson brought us a brilliant melancholic picture of a rocky and nearly toxic relationship that bound Zendaya and John David Washington together in Malcolm & Marie. Shot in a claustrophobic environment with a monochromatic palette, the film’s hopeful yet ambiguous ending left a huge pit in our stomachs. We did not know whom to root for and silently prayed for them to survive the storm that had befallen them.
Along similar lines of anguish and agony, Komel Mundcruzo brought to us Pieces of a Woman that focuses on an unthinkable tragedy of child loss that plagues the couple. While Netflix’s The Starling was based on a nearly similar concept, the film did not capture the depth of grief, trauma and survival that the characters and narrative of Pieces of a Woman comprised. Poignant and emotionally stirring, the film was a jarring and difficult watch and one of Netflix’s finest creations.
The quirky and bizarre film The Mitchells vs. the Machines was a light-hearted animated family dramedy that focused on a dysfunctional family taking a road trip to initiate family bonding time in the wake of a robotic apocalypse where robots seek vengeance against humans. With a twist to the road trip genre, this hilarious and heartwarming film was a brilliant family watch.
Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin’s Concrete Cowboy focused on the gentrified urban landscape and the unique cowboy subculture that also sees violence in the face of abject poverty. A beautiful western by Ricky Staub, the film was an intimate exploration of the intricacies of a father-son relationship. With a brilliant set of soundtracks, Concrete Cowboy was yet another addition to Netflix’s burgeoning western content and added a mellow and visually pleasing aesthetic to it.
Although Elba appeared in the latest western The Harder They Fall, which was, according to us, pretty well-stylized and a brilliant tribute to the genre in general, the latter did not manage to contain the emotional intricacies. Although it was a brilliant exploration of racism and revenge and subverted the general western tropes by viewing it from an all-Black lens, it seemed to be a mere homage to the likes of Tarantino and Leone and a pure homage to the iconic genre in its own right.
However, the film that we feel would definitely be crowned the greatest film of 2021 made by Netflix is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s debut release tick, tick…boom! Starring Andrew Garfield and Vanessa Hudgens, among others. Based on the real-life story of the legendary playwright and lyricist Jonathan Larson, the film focuses on his career trajectory, the transience of time, and artistic precarity. Heart wrenchingly beautiful, it shows Larson’s desperation as an artist and immense love and adoration for his craft that helps him persevere despite initial hiccups to be one of the greatest Tony Award-winning playwrights, albeit after his death.
The overwhelming sense of anxiety and paranoia in Larson and his yearning to earn a name for himself frustrates him. He is like T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock who is haunted by the lack of time. It haunts him and disillusions him but he never gives up. The film also gives a subtle tribute to Stephen Sondheim, the legend who recently passed away, as well as acknowledges the HIV/AIDS epidemic that was prevalent back then. Although the year has not come to an end, tick, tick…boom! is, according to us, the greatest film Netflix has released in 2021 and rightfully so! Miranda’s delicate exploration of the icon’s life and the precariousness of artistic vision makes it his masterpiece and a film that should scare and inspire one and all!