Twelve hidden gems to watch on Netflix Canada while you’re hibernating this winter
Well, 2016 has been a toilet of a year—and now have to finish it in this winter freeze. Your friends may be feigning cheerfulness about chai tea and Instagramming shots of mistletoe, but most of us see the season for what it really is: an ice dungeon. The plus side: the next four months will bring a whole lot of time to Netflix and (literally) chill. Accept it and get to know your UberEats delivery guy by first name. And while you’re cocooned on your couch, try these 12 excellent, lesser-known titles available on Canadian Netflix.
For the documentary addict
Art of Conflict
The conflict in Northern Ireland may be settled, but the graffiti and war imagery painted on the walls of homes, shops and fences remains. This documentary tells the fascinating stories behind the hundreds of murals that were central to the tensions of the civil war. In other words: street art meets war propaganda meets meaty political history.
When a Texas boy goes missing, a French con artist impersonates the child. It gets weirder: the family can’t tell the difference, and they end up welcoming the serial imposter—who happens to be wanted by Interpol—into their vanished son’s bedroom. The doc follows the riveting quest of a private investigator and FBI agent who sense something isn’t quite right. Their hunches and discoveries—that the con man has a history of identity theft, the family might be in on it, too—provides all the gripping suspense of Making a Murderer.
Jafar Panahi’s Taxi
In 2010, the Iranian government condemned director Jafar Panahi’s work as anti-establishment propaganda and banned him from making any new movies. So, when he made Taxi, he took a clandestine approach: filming conversations with citizens of Tehran inside a car. The result is a compelling profile of the city, the country and the people who live there, with a healthy dose of fun, fierce rebellion.
For the comedy lover
Teen abortions and financial desperation don’t exactly scream comedy, but this quirky flick is full of unexpectedly kooky and lighthearted humour. It follows a teenage girl who approaches her broke grandmother for cash to pay for her abortion. Together, they try to keep the unwanted pregnancy a secret from the girl’s uptight mother and concoct several madcap schemes to get their hands on the money. It’s a toss-up as to which character is more of a mess: the grandma who makes crafts with chopped-up credit cards, or the teen girl who falls for a dude who is the human equivalent of toenail fungus. Either one will make your Friday nights of sweatpants, half-eaten pizzas and Netflix marathons look super glam.
At a party, single mother Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) befriends a fellow mom and falls for Albert (James Gandolfini), a friendly giant of a man. Trouble is, her new friends are ex-spouses. When she discovers the truth, she tries to keep her budding relationships secret. In one of his last roles before his death, Gandolfini strays from the typical rom-com love-interest archetype (i.e. young, chiselled) and proves even more loveable and charming (albeit slightly slobby) for it. An extra source of hilarity: the second-hand embarrassment of watching the mismatched couple struggle through a highly klutzy sex scene, which will resurrect the darkest chapters of your own awkward dating history.
For the drama fan
Reaching for the Moon
This film is based on the life of American poet Elizabeth Bishop, who travels to Rio de Janeiro to visit an old friend only to end up falling in love with architect Lota de Macedo Soares. The unpredictable plot line will suck you in early (the tropical Brazilian setting helps, too), and Bishop’s empathetic character—she struggles through relationships, creative ruts and alcoholism—will keep you invested. It’s an early feminist gem: a love story between two career-oriented, openly gay women in the 1950s and ’60s.
Winter sucks, but you know who’s really having a rough time? Michael Finkel. The man gets fired from The New York Times and then gets news that a killer—Christian Longo—has been using his identity and wants to meet up. The fun is in the absurdity of it all: after Finkel teaches the murderer how to write, Longo ends up writing for the Times. The bizarre twists make it a must-watch—all the more because it’s based on a true story (obviously).
For the foreign film aficionado
Most of us pine for a love that will last into old age. Well, Amour is what it would look like. This romantic drama is about an elderly couple confronting the frailty of their own bodies and their declining health. It’s equal parts heart-wrenching and uplifting to watch the husband come to terms with his wife’s vanishing cognitive abilities, then do everything he can to keep her condition at bay. This one will make you want to re-activate your online dating profile—which will, of course, only make you more depressed.
Wolfgang Beltracchi has a strange, rare talent: the ability to copy nearly any artist’s style. He takes fraud to an impressive new low, forging masterpieces from some of the greatest artists of all time: Rembrandt, da Vinci, Picasso. He sneaks the works onto the art market, outsmarts numerous art experts and buyers (including the widow of one of the painters he replicates), sells them for millions a piece at Sotheby’s and Christie’s art auctions, then uses the cash to live a life of high luxury. All is well until he’s caught and criminally charged in relation to 14 forgeries that sold for $22 million. Sure, he’s a jerk, but his genius plan—and watching it unravel—makes for a killer doc.
For the TV binger
Set in a 1950s BBC newsroom, this series serves up murder plots, conspiracy theories, hot journalists and hours of TV-watching when you’re missing Mad Men on cold winter nights. Need we say more?
Sir Gary Galavant has it out for King Richard, the malevolent monarch who stole his sweetheart, Madalena. In his eponymous musical comedy, he’s determined to win his life back—and do it in 18 episodes (i.e., a solid chunk of your winter hibernation). Don’t mistake this for a typical period-piece romance. Galavant is charmingly chirpy, playfully mocking its own cheesiness. The humour is witty and well-timed, impressing the snarkiest of TV critics.
Pablo Escobar: El Patrón del Mal
Need a rebound from Narcos? This documentary series about Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar is your answer. Using real footage of the man behind the Medellin cartel, the show provides deeper context behind Narcos.