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Checking in on Netflix’s Original Movies: March 2022 Edition

Windfall. Photo: Netflix

This article has been updated to include more Netflix original movies.

As the seasons change outside our windows, so too do they shift on Netflix. With the post-holiday winter stupor having finally abated and Oscar campaigning nearly at an end, business as usual can return to the Big Red N following a couple quiet months. March brings a threefer of mid-size entertainments, one of them head-and-shoulders above the others — an Amblin-ish time-travel adventure featuring Ryan Reynolds, a potboiler thriller placing Leighton Meester in harm’s way during a Croatian vacation, and an Arctic tooth-and-nail survival tale pitting Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Joe Cole against an irate polar bear. And the lower-profile foreign imports ain’t half bad either, in particular a Dutch WWII drama acquainting America with one of the country’s darkest hours. A handy digest of this month’s offerings is below, so read on for recommendations and caveats to help find your movie-night selection:

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The Weekend Away

As starting points for movies go, we could all do a lot worse than “the Amanda Knox affair, reimagined as a tawdry airport paperback novel of furtive passion and deadly intrigue.” Trash is rarely so piquant as in Kim Farrant’s goofy, generously amusing account of a girl’s weekend to Croatia gone awry. The unfun Beth (one-time Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester, dowdied up in vain) and freer-spirited gal pal Kate (Christina Wolfe) take off for a few days of sun and sozzlement, only for Beth to wake up after a night of blacked-out partying and find her companion dead. Through a post-roofie haze, the distressed tourist must get to the bottom of what appears to be a frame-up, finding that it’s no coincidence this misfortune has befallen her. Chockablock with red herrings and twists that make up for what they lack in surprise with sheer aplomb, it’s the rare netflick that makes the canon’s defining qualities — narrative illogic, cheapo slapdash production, a compulsive need to keep viewers hooked with plotting trickery — look good.

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A disgruntled robber (Jason Segel) rips off the vacant vacation home of a tech CEO (Jesse Plemons), only for the owner and his wife (Lily Collins, whose husband Charlie McDowell directed the film) to unexpectedly turn up for some intensive relationship rehab. Though the smallness and seclusion of the single-location production do sometimes feel like a concession to COVID more than stripped-down indie resourcefulness, the ensuing hostage situation still plays as neo-Hitchcock in its contained suspense and old-Hollywood orchestral score. Less so in terms of the psychologies in conflict with one another, each a slightly shallow iteration of a familiar type — the greedy magnate (enacted with specificity and flair by Plemons, showing up both his costars), the embittered trophy spouse, the moral crook. Everything’s tied up by a pair of twists, one overly convenient and the other out-of-character, missteps typical of writing that’s best when it’s mining comedy from the criminal’s incompetence and his victims’ exasperation.

Black Crab

In a Sweden turned lawless by civil war, Noomi Rapace must ice-skate for her life if she wants to see her kidnapped daughter ever again. One side’s military promises to reunite them if she’ll first transport a canister with classified contents across a frozen archipelago, a delicate mission during which the promise of a fast death churns just underfoot. She and her team’s treacherous trek yields some appropriately anxiety-producing footage, helped along by location shooting on tundras as far north as the crew could go, but it’s stuck inside a half-baked attempt at entry-level commentary on the hell of war. Rapace’s character knows she’s complicit in unscrupulous business, but it’s only once it negatively affects her that she decides to do anything about it, a change of heart that’s somehow both jaded and naive. More to the point, it’s impossible to know how we stand on this war when director Adam Berg so insistently refrains from specifying what it’s being fought over.

Against the Ice

There’s a stark raving madness to the historical episode of Danish explorer Captain Ejnar Mikkelsen (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) — the guy who charted a course for the north side of Greenland with engineer Iver Iversen (Joe Cole), resulting in a two-year stranding on the frigid Shannon Island — absent from many superficially similar survivalist thrillers. It’s all there in the content, as the desperate pair go toe-to-toe with an irate CGI polar bear and gradually surrender their sanity to the solitude, but Peter Flinth’s pedestrian directing never puts us in their cabin-feverish mindset. Seems like most of his attention was commanded by the involved location shooting in the forbidding tundras of Greenland and Iceland, which does yield some breathtaking footage in its eschewing of chroma-key fakery. But that means this film’s merit tops out at that of a good nature doc, leaving us with admiration for the landscape’s beauty rather than terror at its cruelty.


In Moroccan culture, the word “meskina” refers to a pitiful person, a term of anti-endearment that the family of Leyla (Maryam Hassouni) uses for the 30-year-old singleton and self-proclaimed agoraphobe. This meandering rom-com charts her irregular path to love, structured as a series of incidents that deposit her at a happy conclusion disconnected from the film preceding it. She finds love pretty quickly in an incorrigible-flirt musician (Olaf Ait Tami) who steps out on her after a four-year time jump. Then, she swears off men forever — late second-act business, resolved up front and then reiterated later on in this overlong run time — only to come around and set up a dating profile. Cue a string of calamitous bad dates, the comic value of which ranges from “mild chuckle” to “long, deep breath of reckoning with one’s choices.” Hassouni’s affable enough, but this platform for her talents has come out misshapen.

The Adam Project

There’s a conundrum gumming up the works on Shawn Levy’s stultifying time-travel action picture — no, not the complexities of hopping around the temporal continuum, its contradictions repeatedly waved away by a script that can’t be bothered to make sense. The issue is how to ensure the audience’s belief that the 12-year-old Adam Reed (Walker Scobell) could grow up into a future-self played by Ryan Reynolds, a problem solved by forcing the actor’s trademark smarm into the mouth of an innocent child. The insufferable-and-insufferabler Adams prevent an evil tech magnate (Catherine Keener) from bringing about an unspecified dystopia with help from their dead dad (Mark Ruffalo), but Levy’s evident disinterest in the appeal of this genre — the pocket-watch precision with which it’s all supposed to fit together — harshes the good time. From its half-baked mechanics to the slapdash action sequences to the lumpen pathos of the final act, it’s an apt illustration of why some still look down on Netflix films as sketchy and fake.

Marilyn’s Eyes

In making a movie about mentally ill characters, there are a few pitfalls to watch out for: aestheticizing neurodivergence as quirkiness, playing anguish for condescending laughs, suggesting that just finding the right person will make you whole and fix everything. This Italian calamity cannonballs into one after the other, pairing post-breakdown chef Diego (Stefano Accorsi) and unstable Clara (Miriam Leone) as they convalesce in the upbeat mental hospital from It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Convinced that a sense of purpose will help them along on the road to wellness, they set out to start a restaurant together, an unlikely enterprise that will bring them closer together and challenge their bond in all the ways you might anticipate. Bereft of anything jagged or truthful in its depiction of losing your marbles as a high-concept lark, at least it supplies us with a few cumulative minutes of serviceable food porn.

The Bombardment

As of late, the algorithm has gotten into European World War II pictures drawing attention to little-known subplots in the grander battle, judging by this respectful Danish period piece to be filed alongside The Forgotten Battle and Munich: The Edge of War. In German-occupied Copenhagen, a Royal Air Force strike on a Gestapo base goes awry and results in the fiery destruction of a schoolhouse filled with civilians. Director Ole Bornedal (whose daughter Fanny appears in the film as a nun in spiritual crisis) gives meaning to the casualties by giving a handful of them interiority, a technique most poignant in its application to young Henry (Bertram Bisgaard Enevoldsen). Rendered mute by a bombing in his country hometown before coming to the city for further horrors, he offers an analog for today’s youth living in fear of ground-level violence at school, his worst nightmare made real by a world that can’t keep him safe.

The Invisible Thread

Beneath the premise of a good-natured teen (Francesco Gheghi) sticking by his two dads (Francesco Scianna and Flilppo Timi) as an act of infidelity threatens to dissolve their union, there’s a more mean-spirited schtick. “What if guys acted as hysterical and vindictive as the most uncharitable stereotype of a jilted woman?” asks director and cowriter Marco Simon Puccioni as he undercuts the tenderness of the first act’s montage recounting the labor and ardor required for two men to be joint fathers in Italy. The film takes their marriage seriously, spending many of its 110 minutes exploring the legal tangle that ensues when they both pursue custody of their son despite biological parentage being unknown. But it takes potshots at the men themselves, their suit-shredding antics in keeping with a sensibility more retrograde than the espoused pro-LGBT messaging.

Checking in on Netflix’s Original Movies: March 2022 Edition