Expats Review
Expats Review Is Out! (Picture Credit: IMDb)

Expats Review: Star Rating:

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Sarayu Blue, Ji-young Yoo, Brian Tee, and Jack Huston

Creator: Lulu Wang

Director: Lulu Wang

Streaming On: Amazon Prime Video

Language: English (with subtitles)

Runtime: 6 episodes, around 1 hour each.

Expats Review
Expats Review Is Out! (Picture Credit: IMDb)

Expats Review: What’s It About

The immigrant experience is very particular because what it means to go to a different country and start a life from scratch can mean different things to different people; some people adapt very well, while others never really manage to grow roots there. What is pretty much universal is that living in another culture is not an easy task, and that is the subject of Expats, a new series created by Lulu Wang and streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Expats Review: Script Analysis

Expats take the chance to tell the stories of three women living in different circumstances in Hong Kong. Still, none of them are Hong Kong natives or even from China, which already pushes them to have this disconnection with their environments. Hong Kong is one of those places that receives tons of expats looking for work, and many make a living in this city that feels like an oasis in the desert for these people. However, it is clear that no matter what, they will never be part of Hong Kong.

The series pushes this narrative hard and makes it the center of it, and it is pretty compelling, especially if you are an expat yourself or know someone in that situation. People leave their countries for many reasons, but more often than not, everyone does it to find a better place and life. Sadly, the gamble doesn’t always pay off, and in the series, we see several examples of this happening to our characters.

All the characters are crucial in the thematic focus of the series. Still, it is clear that Nicole Kidman‘s character, Margaret, is the main character of the piece, as all the other characters’ stories revolve in some way or another around her. This helps to create focus for the story but also makes the city look pretty small, which the series acknowledges; the city sometimes looks and feels like a small town. The male characters are there as background, which feels cheap, so in a sense, we see Nicole Kidman in another Big Little Lies-type show.

Even when there is an apparent favoritism for making the female characters the center of it all, the story remains compelling enough to make the show worth watching. All three main characters are very different women, so you will connect with them in small ways, even if they are not the most fun people to hang out with. This is a drama, so don’t expect a lot of comedy here; this is all about the struggle of living and recovering from a tragedy.

Expats Review
Expats Review Is Out! (Picture Credit: IMDb)

Expats Review: Star Performance

Nicole Kidman is one of the greats; there is no doubt about it. However, her latest work has felt similar in that she has played many suffering mothers in the last decade. There is nothing wrong with that, but she has the talent to do much more than just being an eternal mother suffering every single day, so while she is doing great on the show, there is this feeling that I want to see Nicole doing something else, a bit more daring and out of her comfort zone.

Meanwhile, Ji-young Yoo is the breakthrough role of the show, as she is a young woman suffering from her lack of experience and circumstances. The actress easily matches Kidman’s energy and other more experienced actors, making her stand out even more. Sarayu Blue is fine, but her role is more subdued than the others, so the character doesn’t have the chance to shine as much, especially as her storyline is much more redundant inside the genre.

Expats Review: Direction & Music

Lulu Wang proves with The Farewell that she was capable of creating an almost perfect mixture of distance and closeness without ever devolving into melodrama. Here, she is doing the same because while the feelings are strong, there is no big explosion of emotions waiting at every corner; most of the most dramatic events occur while the character tries not to break down under pressure, making the characters way more believable. When characters are just crying and screaming every chance they get, the shock value of those moments diminishes considerably, and Wang knows not to do that.

The cinematography is gorgeous, making the city of Hong Kong a significant presence throughout the series, and the music is the perfect tool to transport us to this environment that, for most people, will be very new and exotic. There are also a couple of some here and there that make an appearance and make for some fun and even scary moments. Alex Weston, the show’s composer, manages to have a different piece for every situation and still maintain a sense of belonging to each piece without making it sound stereotypical.

Expats Review: Last Words

Expats is a very engaging and entertaining drama that takes the chance of exploring a very particular point of view that is not often explored by mainstream media; the acting is fantastic, mixing both giants like Nicole Kidman with newer talents, great cinematography and music, and atmosphere that feels very realistic considering the situation. This is the best way to start 2024 for Amazon Prime Video, and it won’t be the last, as the streaming service has a couple of big shows in its portfolio for this year.

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