The theme of “friends as family” has been around forever, but lately we’ve seen shows that have taken gathering friends to a new level, adding a lot of stakes to relationships. More often than not, those high stakes have been related to health, and a new Netflix series from Spain is in that vein.
Opening shot: Five women look at each other in their mirrors, some running their hands through their hair apprehensively. Everyone is about to shave their heads.
The essence: Women shave their heads out of solidarity before traveling from Madrid to Cádiz on vacation. Sara (Itsaso Arana), Alma (Sara
Mónica Miranda), Carol (María Rodríguez Soto), Leo (Mariona Terés) and Olga (Godeliv Van den Brandt) have been friends since they sat in the back of their sixth grade classroom 25 years ago. One of them has been diagnosed with cancer and is about to start chemotherapy, which is why the group decided to shave their heads.
We don’t know which woman has cancer, and the five friends have agreed not to talk about cancer or tell anyone they know which friend is sick. They go to the beach resort town and get a luxurious Airbnb villa to forget about reality. But they also want to do things that they didn’t dare to do before. Before the trip, the women put strips of paper in a box that would contain “bucket list” items; when they get the first ticket out at a highway rest stop, what’s on it sparks a big debate: it says “having a lesbian experience.”
Everyone except Alma is straight, and some, like Olga, seem ready to do it and others, like Leo, don’t even want to try. Everyone thinks Alma has it easy, except for the fact that Alma is in a long-term relationship and she wants to remain monogamous. When they go to the market, Olga sees a handsome boy who she seems to vibrate with, but for some reason she tells Leo that he didn’t want her to be his first so he could look at her. They meet the man, John (Javier Rey), both at the restaurant he owns and at the club they go to afterward (which he suggests). To alleviate Olga’s desire to flirt with him and honor the task, he suggests a threesome.
Meanwhile, Carol hooks up with a single lady and they go upstairs to the single lady’s room for seemingly platonic reasons, until they both realize the woman’s friends spiked her drink with ecstasy and they both take sips. Leo hooks up with a “double bagger” because of their lack of self-esteem. And Alma and Sara recount how Sara helped Alma realize that she likes women instead of men, including a beardless kiss.
What shows will it remind you of? If the theme of the girls in the back sounds familiar, it’s because the idea of women who are longtime friends reunited when one of them has cancer is the subject of another recent Netflix series, Other life.
Our take: the girls in the back (Original title: The ones in the last row), created by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, is supposed to be about female friendships and how your real friends get together instead of running when you’re going through a difficult stage of life. What we enjoyed about the first episode is that we got to see the chemistry between the five friends, with Arévalo writing down their arguments and bickering with a candor that you would see with people who have been friends for so long. They love each other, but they call each other out for their weaknesses, they talk to each other, they just see each other as a group that has a relationship that most people would envy.
But what’s the most powerful aspect of the show, at least in the first episode, is that we don’t know who’s sick, and most likely we won’t until the end of the first season, if at all. Arévalo does not do this to create a trick or generate a mystery; we never find ourselves watching the first episode for clues as to who the sick one might be. We were simply appreciating the solidarity the women showed each other and their attempts to adhere to the “rules” of this journey, however difficult it may be for them.
It’s because the show isn’t about the person with cancer, it’s about these five friends who seize the day and maybe find a change in their point of view now that they’re 30 years old. And that’s where we hope the show stays for as long as possible.
Sex and skin: There’s some quick, practical topless in a couple of scenes.
Parting shot: Carol wakes up naked, leaves a voicemail for her husband, and then sees the bachelorette come out of the bathroom, lamenting how the ecstasy she took “loosens her bowels”.
sleeping star: We like Mariona Terés as Leo, because it seems that she is realizing that she doesn’t have to be skinny like her friends to be attractive to people… she just needs to like herself more.
Most of the Pilot-y line: Alma tries to get the uptight Carol to accept the adventure of the lesbian experience and brings her face close enough for Carol to kiss her. “That counts, right? That was a lot for me,” says Carol cheerfully. Little did she know what awaited her later that night.
Our call: TRANSMIT IT. the girls in the back takes a new approach to a story we’ve seen several times before, and has an engaging cast with fantastic chemistry.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting, and technology, but he’s not kidding himself: he’s a couch potato. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, vanityfair.comFast Company and elsewhere.
Source : decider.com