Why ‘The OA’ Is One of the Year’s Most Important Films

Why 'The OA' Is One of
Courtesy of Netflix

Of all the ways Netflix's 'The OA' might blow your mind, what it means for cinema — and the future of narrative storytelling — is the most exciting.

I may just have seen the most exciting film of 2016. On my television. Via Netflix. Technically, I suppose that makes it a TV series, but I wouldn’t call “The OA” that. I think “breakthrough” might be a better word.

The way I see it, “The OA” is a long-form movie — more than seven hours long, in fact — divided into eight chapters, conceived by a pair of paradigm-challenging filmmakers who’ve recognized untapped potential in this new medium. Let’s call it “on-demand storytelling,” where auteurs have been given a chance to tell stories that don’t fit neatly into two hours (or however long most people can hold both their attention and their bladders). Because it’s being produced for Netflix, and not for a major studio, it’s not obliged to appeal to everyone, but can justify its own existence by connecting with a core of passionate viewers. That’s part of what’s so incredible about “The OA”: It’s one of the purest pieces of auteur filmmaking I’ve seen all year, piped directly from the soul of its creators, writer-director Zal Batmanglij and co-writer-star Brit Marling, onto the screen, where the right audience seems to have found it.

(This would be a good time for me to disclose that I know those two talents personally. Variety named Batmanglij a “director to watch” back in 2012, and we’ve become friendly since. But I assure you that my enthusiasm is sincere — although perhaps not surprising, considering that I believe “Sound of My Voice” to be one of the decade’s most revolutionary debuts, and even screened it in the graduate film class I taught at Chapman U.)

For anyone interested in “The OA,” “Sound of My Voice” would be an excellent place to start. A pseudo-supernatural mystery about a pair of documentary filmmakers investigating a curious suburban cult that has sprung up around a woman who claims to be from the future, the project was Batmanglij and Marling’s first feature-length brainchild, but even then, it wasn’t a straightforward film. Clearly designed as a calling card for its creators, the forward-thinking thriller premiered in the Next section at the Sundance Film Festival — which seemed an apt enough place to put it, even though Marling’s other, more conventional movie, “Another Earth,” unfairly received more attention in competition that same year.

“Sound of My Voice” was conceived as a serialized narrative, with miniature cliffhangers or twists paced every 10 to 15 minutes, building to one giant open-ended head-scratcher at the end. It was structured in such a way that they could have split it up and released the project as a series of webisodes (sure enough, chapter one became a viral teaser for its theatrical release). Had Netflix been producing original content at the time, the film might just as easily have served as the pilot for a full-length series; in fact, HBO nibbled, but when they wanted to re-shoot the entire thing, the filmmakers went with Fox Searchlight instead.

It was clear at the time that Batmanglij was thinking beyond the usual limitations of narrative, coupled with electrifying ideas within the story itself. As a film critic, I typically consider myself lucky if a movie provides a single memorable set piece. “Sound of My Voice” was loaded with them: cult members eating earthworms, vomiting apples, and trying to make sense of the old Cranberries song, “Dreams,” used in a totally fresh context. “Sound of My Voice” played with preexisting genre conventions, pretzeling them into wild and unpredictable new forms, and worked its magic almost entirely through its creators’ imagination (which in turn tickled ours), since the budget required them to tell a complex sci-fi story with available locations and minimal effects.

Sound familiar? Batmanglij’s next movie, “The East,” felt somewhat more conventional in form, though the content remained subversively radical. This time, instead of being the leader of a weird cult, Marling played a federal agent sent undercover to infiltrate one — and the deeper she got, the less clear her allegiances became. Was she in control of the situation, or was she being seduced by the charismatic terrorist cell? That kind of ambiguity can be maddening in some storytellers’ hands, but it’s sort of the most compelling thing about the way Batmanglij and Marling operate: They never underestimate their audience’s intelligence, even though our pleasure often comes in mistakenly thinking we’re a step ahead of the game, only to have the rules suddenly rewritten.

On the surface, “The OA” appears to be yet another cult story — and to some extent, it is, but only insofar as any group of outsiders with strong convictions and potentially controversial beliefs (a club, a team, a family) could be viewed as a cult. The series grabs you from the first scene, a freaky moment atop a high-traffic bridge in which a woman slips between moving cars and throws herself off the railing, her stunt captured via iPhone and uploaded to YouTube. Like many of the enigmas surrounding “the OA” (as Marling’s character calls herself), the explanation comes, but never feels entirely clear.

One could say that the next eight hours consist largely of red herrings meant to divert our attention away from the most effective ending I’ve ever seen in a TV series, if indeed this is a TV series. Certainly, the final twist — which left me crying uncontrollably for nearly half an hour, so deeply was I affected — operates more in the cinematic than television tradition. (Although things are changing at the level of “The Sopranos” and “Lost,” television has a vested interest in leaving narratives open, stringing audiences along for season after season until they lose interest, and then pulling the plug when no one much is watching anymore. Consider “Orange Is the New Black”: As long as the show is popular, Piper ain’t ever getting out of prison.)

By contrast, “The OA” commits to a destination. Although its creators have suggested in interviews that they have ideas for how to do future seasons, this stand-alone eight-hour narrative is structured with a beginning, middle, and end, satisfying the demands this critic typically puts on movies, while providing a depth with which few two-hour mysteries can possibly compete.

Granted, there’s a discipline to telling a self-contained story in a finite running time, but “The OA” proves to me what television critics have been saying for years; namely, that in an era of on-demand viewership, where audiences are both engaged and sophisticated enough to follow extended serial narratives, the television medium offers opportunities, not limitations. Television storytelling is less about plot, and entire episodes of my favorite series (such as the Rian Johnson-directed “Fly” in season three of “Breaking Bad”) can be devoted to exploring new corners of a given character’s psyche. Along those lines, “Lost” would delve into a different survivor’s backstory every week, and I half-expected “The OA” to do something similar, since Marling’s character has gathered five misfits from the local high school to listen to her own mind-bending tale — but I don’t think Batmanglij is thinking in terms of episodes (each one runs a different length, for example).

“The OA” is a continuous, ever-escalating narrative, and each of the eight segments distributed by Netflix is a chapter. The story doesn’t move forward so much as deeper, or perhaps higher, raising the stakes for the characters as it goes, and as soon as I finished, I circled back and rewatched the first episode, which suddenly had new meaning. Details that had seemed like fragments of clues suddenly had context. Now, I recognized that the scene in which the OA reaches out to “see” her adoptive mother’s face for the first time wasn’t just the gesture of someone who’d been blind for most of her childhood, but also the first human contact for a victim who’d been deprived of touch for more than seven years. And what had earlier sounded like hyperbole in the OA’s claim, “We all died more times than I can count,” now resonated as profound tragedy.

Variety’s own review of the series begins, “It is hard to take ‘The OA’ seriously,” and perhaps that’s true. But I would argue that seriously is the only way to take it — that the material dares to be sincere in a medium poisoned by ironic detachment. Where other shows let audiences off the hook with a wink, “The OA” stares us right in the eyes (as Marling does in the scene when the water rises in her tank, a Christ figure submitting to her own sacrifice). There is humor in “The OA,” but it’s not camp. The entire experience is about the need for narratives that seem bigger than the incidents we face in our own lives. The same quality that the OA’s five followers respond to in her is what draws us into a show like this. As the poster on Mulder’s wall in “The X-Files” read, “I want to believe.”

Another facet of what makes “The OA” so daring is how, apart from that shocking initial bridge stunt, it takes its time to warm up. And then, as the story gathers steam, it actually encourages us to doubt the legitimacy of what we’re seeing. Can the OA be believed? Are the flashbacks we see real, or do they represent her listeners’ vivid imaginations … and by extension, our own? (Is that even allowed?)

Batmanglij and Marling have played these tricks before. “Sound of My Voice” manages to have it both ways: In that movie, Marling’s character is permitted to be both a fraud and the real thing, as various details either corroborate or contradict each of those perspectives. “The OA” is less coy. Yes, it invites skepticism: Is the OA really the daughter whose adoptive parents once called her Prairie? Did she actually live through the sadistic experiments that she describes? Did those horrors yield the enlightenment that she claims? And what is her true agenda in sharing all of this with a group of misfits?

Audiences can — and will — debate these mysteries ad nauseam, and that’s where filmmakers must surely find the other great allure of working for Netflix and Amazon, as opposed to making movies strictly for the big screen: A culture of analysis and discussion exists around television that simply isn’t there for movies, or not to anywhere near the same degree these days (though there was a day when dinosaurs walked the earth, and a Pauline Kael review might kick things off, inspiring cinephiles all over the country to carry on the conversation offline among friends). The only conversation of that scale to have emerged around movies this year has been whether “La La Land” is really everything it’s cracked up to be, a reaction by real moviegoers to the fact that critics in their relatively privileged silo have been talking about the movie among themselves for months, while audiences are only now getting to see it in theaters.

“The OA” was sent out into the world with minimal advance notice — apart from a trailer launched days before the show debuted, Netflix kept this stealth project largely under wraps. But it’s already struck a nerve with audiences, which you can see on Twitter, and message boards, and in the comments threads of traditional television reviews, which largely didn’t know what to make of it.

To be honest, I don’t watch enough television to fairly judge how “The OA” measures up. I love the way it shape-shifts through genre, the way the Wachowskis’ “Sense8” did. In the quarter-century since David Lynch brought us “Twin Peaks,” that series is the closest model I can find of filmmakers who’ve been frustrated by the traditional feature form — where mind-blowing narrative experiments must be constrained to two hours while appealing to four quadrants — migrating to Netflix or Amazon (where “Transparent” paves the way, challenging the stodginess of now-formulaic Sundance-style dysfunctional family movies) in order to spread their wings.

With “Sense8,” the Wachowskis may have succeeded in jamming the system — as members of the counterculture cult in “The East” refer to their own attacks — creating an expansive, compelling queer network of characters unlike virtually any television has brought us before. “Sense8” was a breakthrough for bisexual and trans representation on screen, and it was inclusive of international non-English speakers in a way that American TV seldom has been, apart from maybe the Korean couple on “Lost.” But the dialogue on that show sounds like it had been stolen from comic book talk balloons, while the acting was as melodramatic as daytime soap operas.

Audiences can only handle so much innovation at one time, so I’m inclined to excuse a certain amount of cliché in films that challenge convention in every other respect (à la “Avatar”). What some critics have identified as corny or familiar in “The OA” strikes me as the necessary common ground required for us to wrap our heads around all the wild and different things its creators are throwing at us. Otherwise, as the narrative is constantly evolving before our eyes, it’s almost impossible to get a grasp on what it is we’re watching. The twists come that frequently, and the kind of movie we think we’re in changes so often — from “Room” to “Flatliners” to “Gone Baby Gone” to … well, to list any more would spoil too many surprises — that it helps that the writers have set “The OA” in a drab suburban world among deceptively normal characters (except how normal is it to see a trans teenager on screen?). And of course, that proves essential to where it goes — which I’ll leave to you to discover.

What’s significant here is how, in a story where someone’s possible abduction and captivity plays such an important role, the focus remains on the victim, not the criminals (in the last-episode surprise, we never see the perpetrator’s face), and not a team of white male law enforcement officers, once again tasked with saving the day. When women are aggressed in our society, justice is seldom served. And even when it is, the real challenge isn’t seeking vengeance but finding how to move past the trauma. And yet the obsession always remains: Did the violation in question really happen? So many viewers are hung up on that question, rather than asking how to heal a society where such acts are possible in the first place, or how to help survivors deal with what they’ve experienced — which is where this particular meditation focuses its energy.

“The OA” represents a narrative made almost entirely without compromise — a rarity in any medium. For better or worse, it doesn’t feel as if network executives told Batmanglij and Marling what they could or couldn’t do (had it been pitched a few years earlier, “The OA” never would have gotten made). Where else on television can you find a white actress and a director of color being allowed to tell their own story? (Such progress has been limited almost entirely to satire in the past, from “Girls” and “Inside Amy Schumer” to “Key & Peele” and “Chappelle’s Show.”) That subversiveness can be felt from the first episode, when the OA says, “Well, it’s not really a measure of mental health to be well-adjusted in a society that’s very sick.” Though Netflix took the plunge, “The OA” is also made possible by Anonymous Content and Plan B, the same production company behind this year’s revolutionary “Moonlight” — not to mention “12 Years a Slave” three years earlier — which makes Brad Pitt (who owns Plan B) one of the most progressive producers in town these days.

Does my enthusiasm for “The OA” change my top 10 list in any way? No, even though I view the project as a long-form film, it was created for the small screen, and I object on principle to film critics putting television projects on their year-end lists (the way so many are doing with ESPN-commissioned “O.J.: Made in America,” or more outrageously, Beyoncé’s visual album, “Lemonade”). Doing so strikes me as an abdication of duty by film critics who’ve been tasked with identifying quality and innovation in their field. It’s a sly way of repeating the insult that the year’s movies aren’t as good as they should be, by looking to something outside the arena and calling it better.

This year’s theatrical fare shouldn’t necessarily be judged against the “The OA,” with its longer running time and different commercial demands. And yet, I fully expect the series to have an impact, the way landmark narratives that touch a nerve with audiences always do. “The OA” is hardly perfect, but it feels like the start of something. What Batmanglij and Marling have accomplished is an encouraging sign for filmmakers who might be debating whether to pitch a project to Netflix, Amazon, or HBO — or to incorporate its innovations back into the formula-dominated realm of big-screen features. With this example, others need only follow the sound of their voice.

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  1. Alex Russello says:

    My problem with the show is how badly it was filmed. I know the shaky-camera style of film making is in style in this era, but The OA takes it to a new nauseating level. The question I ask is, why? Every scene the camera is shaking so much, it made it unwatchable for me. Did the makers of Dramamine finance this show?

  2. Daniel Gapp says:

    I enjoyed this series but it left me frustrated. The series spent lots of time on empty threads that could have been spent better elsewhere. For instance, an entire episode was spent on the Cuban guitarist, a character that never becomes more than set dressing after that. The characters that listen to the stories are each given a little solo time to flesh out their backgrounds (except the trans character because apparently ‘trans’ is enough ?), but this background ends up having exactly no bearing on anything else that happens. The show could have spent 2 minutes explaining the bully, the kid with absent parents, the overachiever, the trans kid, and the lonely schoolmarm. In fact, the solo plot of the bully ends up doing nothing but creating a huge plot hole (did the parents just give up on military school when he showed up back at home?). All of the Russian orphan backstory is completely unnecessary as well. This same story, cutting all the unnecessary bits, really could have been told in a 2 hour movie.

    While we were wasting time learning that Homer can apparently pick up even the most strong-willed and beautiful women while he’s under extreme emotional duress, other more core plot elements are given no screen time at all. The connection between creative performance and NDE’s is never explored, just stated with no corellation to what we know of the real world. Most of the other high-concepts the series offers up, while interesting, go almost completely unexplained and unexplored.

    I didn’t really mind the way the series ended, I like thought provoking and open-ended conclusions. The series was incredibly well acted as well. I just felt like the series willfully wasted my time with some of its subplots, then raced to a sudden conclusion.

    Just to touch on the subject of “The Sound of My Voice”, I have to say the whole handshake thing in that movie had be bursting out laughing, and totally took me out of the world the movie was creating. The ‘movements’ in this show come very, very close to doing that. What the heck is it with these 2 collaborators and these strange body movements? It’s off-putting and distracts from the whole.

  3. A.A.Rowland says:

    I was looking for a review of depth after seeing the first two chapters of The OA, and I am both satisfied on all accounts and brought deeper still into the quandaries. Having been the victim of an attempted homicide by a stranger with a bizarre agenda (many years ago) I was thrilled that you highlighted The OA’s focus on how the victim reintegrates into “normal” life. Our entertainment mediums only want the action/drama of the perpetrators and linear punishment. The OA is onto something with (in) larger dimensions. Those ready for this level of discussion will find each other like the survivor’s club in the show…and Netflix uses our tools of detachment asi the conduit of storytelling connection. Cool.

  4. nerdrage says:

    I found this show to be compelling for reasons I can’t really explain and certainly won’t bother to defend since they are fundamentally irrational.

    Negatives: the story has plot holes you could drive a mack truck through, too many disposable characters, too many illogical actions where a character could have solved a dilemma if only they had done this and not that, making them seem stupid for the sake of the plot.

    But the storyline is very gripping, until it starts to sputter in latter episodes, the actors playing Homer and Hap were particularly well cast. I’d watch a second season that jettisons every character except OA, Homer and Hap. And the premise is inherently fascinating. If there’s a second season, I’ll probably watch the whole thing back to back, something I never bother to do.

    There’s nothing particularly movie-like about the first season of The OA, or anything very groundbreaking in its structure. The most groundbreaking thing about it is that it appeals to micro-niche-tastes – if you like it, you tend to love it, but most won’t like it. And that’s a function of the business of streaming, that gathers together a huge global audience in a cheap, cost-effective way that makes it profitable to cater to micro-niche-tastes in a way you’ll never see on broadcast or cable.

    The OA reminds me of other streaming series that also elicit polarizing responses: The Man in the High Castle and Sense8. The wisest course of action is for viewers to watch a couple episodes, decide for themselves if this is for them, and not try to rationalize this decision because it’s not rational. This is all just entertainment after all. If it works for you, great. If not, move on. There will be many many more micro-niche-taste shows in the future, more than any of us can handle, so being picky is a good thing.

  5. Hardly groundbreaking narrative storytelling. Underdeveloped characters, tangential plot lines and an ending that feels largely unearned. If that’s groundbreaking, maybe the reviewer should spend some time in any film school and you will find a lot of the same, half-baked story ideas. I would agree with another reviewer who called it, “beautiful bullshit.”

  6. John says:

    The oa was 5/10 at best.

  7. This show was terrible. Watch Fassbinder’s epic for good long form TV. Heck, watch Barney Miller. Anything but this show.

  8. I saw Sound of My Voice and came away with a certain level of admiration for the direction and photography but with the feeling that Ms. Marling occupies the same niche within their creative group that Naomi Watts occupied with David Lynch, for a time: a mild obsession whose presence and abilities are magnified by the insularity of the group-think. I didn’t buy her as a mesmerizing guru type at all. Her actual impact is negligible and the character feels like one more tired retelling of the 60s-style cult leader cliche. They obviously tried to inflate her aura by use of those adoring, tight shots and the lambent lighting but she’s ultimately just too slight a screen presence to carry off such a conceit. If she was a co-writer on this, I have a LOT more admiration for her in that sense, as every word here rings true but as casting for this character…weak.

  9. Dave says:

    Most of the ideas come from the Carlos Castaneda books, or his later imitators.

  10. Justin says:

    Mediocre at best. But just the type of show white people like to impress themselves by liking. And the perfect show for Americans today, lazy at the core.

  11. Brian says:

    There are definitely parallels between Sound of my Voice and the OA with Brit playing a kind of Hoodie wearing suburban mini cult leader turned storyteller who shares her involved origin story to a group of needy misfits. But that OK. Brit and Zal are borrowing from themselves. Reading the review I question if the OA although innovative is the game charger or if the real star is Netflix. The medium is the message and the new Medium is on demand full season launches for binge watching. The first episode of the OA for example included the first 15 minutes of the second episode. I’ve never seen this before. The standard TV convention is a end of show preview of the next show and a previously on clip before the next episode especially for complex stories.

    And Netflix gave only a 5 second countdown before the next show started with a button options to see the credits instead of playing them to allow a few minute pause between the next show.

    Kevin Spacey gave a lecture a while back about House of Cards where he talked about his frustration with the pilot process. Pilots have to do heavy lifting by selling viewers on the story and characters, and give them enough entertainment punch to make them watch it again. They are one offs from the first show. And all to often a show lives and dies with the pilot. Even Sienfled was at risk of being cancelled. So considering how one of the most successful shows in TV history almost didn’t make it, I think the process should be questioned?

    Spacey said that because they didn’t need to make a pilot they were able to present the story how they wanted it. Flash forward from House of Cars, and Orange is the New Black and other Netflix Original series to The OA. Netflix let Zal and Brit loose to make the OA,which allowed them to explore a long form seven hour movie. I say it’s about the time and why the heck not?

    Fans can’t get enough of a show. They writing fan fiction to add to the world that was created. Take the successful Harry Potter Fantastic Beast spin off. The world obviously want more Harry Potter Universe, and Star Wars too.

    One other element I see is the increase use of flashback. This new freedom of long forms gives the writer a chance to use all of the background material they’ve written , but never got to use. And fans like because it feels like fan fiction.

  12. Mrs. Bear says:

    I find it interesting how polarizing this show seems to be. The comments section is full of “I love it!” and “I hate it!” with very little middle ground.

    That’s healthy and it shows that The OA actually is quite good – it strikes a chord with a certain subset of the population instead of blandly pandering to everyone at once. Not everyone “gets” it. Not everyone wants to. It does create a lot of discussion though, some of it on very difficult topics. There’s no One True Interpretation (yet).

    In this respect, The OA is very much like art.

    • Fernando says:

      Complete nonsense.

      The oa leaves so much room that someone like the writer of the above ‘article’ (Chief Film Critic
      Peter Debruge, “chief”, really?) finds himself an opening to compensate his failed writer’s career and “poetically” (barf) fills in the many, many blanks of the oa.

      Well, guess what. That only plays well in Peter Debruge’s own head. The oa is nothing more than lazy and cliched writing what learned NOTHING from Lost and other wise lessons about TV writing and mystery boxes. Brit Marling should not be allowed to produce and/or write anymore, she’s terrible at it.

      Most evidence to this is the severe anti-climax at the end of this waste of Netflix’s money, waste of the viewers’ time. Imagine all the great drama we could have had instead of this lame mockery of the genre.

  13. Filterboy says:

    This rambling review and the negative comments from people who flat-lined a long time ago should not put anyone off. I mean, zeroes complaining something is “pretentious” is as good as a personal invitation, in my book. All art is pretentious which is a darned sight better than the pandering cliches of 99% of shows.

    “The OA” is one of the best things I have ever seen on television. But I guess you have to CARE about people (y’know, empathy) and follow a plot that is nowhere near as straightforward as it looks. It might also help to understand 1) what life in suburbia is like, 2) abuse and what it does to people including the abuser, 3) metaphor, 4) the function of a scapegoat.

    • KK says:

      So people who don’t like the show don’t have empathy? You just pathologized people because they like a particular TV show. Very pseudo-intellectual.

  14. Sofia says:

    I’m amazed you said in your article that you cried uncontrollably for half an hour. This is exactly what happened to me, though I felt it as a very individual experience. Amazing movie that is bluntly sincere but kind

  15. Tom Kazanski says:

    the most rambling incoherent review of recent memory. I tuned out of the review and wont tune in to the OA based on this.

  16. l says:

    I think the writer of this article needs some help and possibly medication. The end of the show left him crying “uncontrollably” for a half hour? Get a grip, dude. Oh my god. Padded walls and Jesus. It’s not a tv show, it’s a film? What in god’s name is this article going on about? Embarrassing.

  17. None of the “innovations” listed here were first done by “The OA”. Not even close. Furthermore, the review here puts out some rather absurd statements (tv is more analyzed than movies lol? I get where you seem to have been trying to go with that, but hey, wanna talk about Star Wars for a minute?).

    Seriously, the biggest thing this review seems to put forth as “innovating” is that the story had a definite ending in mind from the beginning – which it actually didn’t, and which many other shows have had. “The Fall” springs immediately to mind.

    In short, I think the most important fact in the article is that the author is friends with the film makers.

  18. Thomas Leaf says:

    I tapped out after 3 episodes. Found it to be pretentious at times…but gave up on it after episode 3 more because i found all of the characters unlikable and disinterested in what was going to happen to them.

    • MP says:

      Agreed. I wanted to like this show, as the premise and subject matter are of interest. Pretentious is the same word I used the other day to explain it to someone. The characters feel superficial, and the voiceover component is distracting. It would have been best served perhaps as 2 hour film. The opening set up that took up nearly the whole first episode could have worked at about 5-10 minutes. Very self indulgent.

  19. HELPme says:

    i just binge watched the whole thing… like 8 hours straight….

  20. Review Reader says:

    You and all reviewers do a great disservice to the filmmakers when you announce ahead of time that the ending is a surprise. Why do that? You ruin the unexpected experience for others when you announce ahead of time that it’s a surprise.

    And the chief film critic who states that he’s friends with the filmmakers and admits that he doesn’t watch a lot of TV writes a glowing review of an 8 episode streamed TV show?

    This seems to chip away a bit at Variety’s journalistic integrity.

    I’m a big fan of the series. I loved it. But this piece as a whole feels a lot more like a promotional puff piece.

    Variety should have better standards than that.

  21. carol deady says:

    I appreciated the OA because I believe it tried to tie the theorys of multiple dimensions, the mystery of near death experiences, what is heaven, the paranormal, and finding the worm hole through the universe. Is there a way to connect these mystery’s? Unless a person has studied these phenomena this movie is hard to piece together. After I watched it I recommended it to a friend. The first thing I asked my friend was how much they knew about string theory because if you know nothing it will be difficult to follow.

  22. I watched this fantastic show in one sitting and just saw the ending. Wow.

  23. NIMSHI says:

    The OA is a metaphorical tribute to the late Tony Scott in a Kubrick rhythm. KEEP IN MIND; films like, Concussion, The East (both of which are ScottFree produced), stories of Jesus and the Apostles, as well as Tony Scott’s death, don’t forget The OA’s character Scott to understand this well observed disection. 👌

  24. bc says:

    Oh, good for Variety for appreciating this splendid series. Up there with Mister Robot and a few other really innovative, captivating and brilliant shows. It seems on the one hand to have really irritated the people who think that cinema is all about providing a myriad of riddling, cunning clues so that they can keep track of whether “all the ends are tied up”, which is illiterate and sad, really, and on the other those who actually do just resent the sort of experience that OA provides and the complicated, nuanced ideas it entertains. It’s Gradgrind element that’s actually moved to sneering derision by this sort of fare (see Dickens).
    It’s a great one to binge if you have some holiday time, I’d suggest that people not listen to the snottier critics.

  25. Ed Nelson says:

    I literally just finished watching the final episode. I did not binge watch, but metered it out over a week, savoring the build up.

    I do not understand the ending. I was hoping for a satisfying wrap-up to the story. I was left with a big open-ended question mark after investing 8 hours.

    Weak sauce.

    • Review Reader says:

      Brit Marling seems to be someone who favors the more artsy type of things. I’m normally not a big fan of that approach but have to say that it really worked for me here. It’s a TV series. You’re supposed to leave people wanting more. But even if there’s never another episode made I’m cool with that. The ending felt a little forced and sudden with zero explanation merely for surprise’s sake and that was a bit weird but boy did it work for this viewer.

      I don’t think we need answers for everything. Sometimes it’s good to have some mystery. (At least for me!)

  26. Paul Padillo says:

    Once again I’m left not startled by the comments from those who hated this show, and the derision they heap upon those who loved it. It speaks volumes. For the record, I had some problems with the show, but overall, ended up loving it and finding it one of the more satisfying television experiences I’ve had this year. Deeply engaging, thought-provoking, great storytelling (in the old fashioned sense) and doing that “thing” of connecting wildly disparate characters and unifying them into an unlikely, but beautiful force and connecting with those willing to do so, in an emotional and impactful way. I can’t ask for much more than that.

  27. Sandra Jo White says:

    I couldn’t even make it through the first episode just like I couldn’t make it through this whole article. I couldn’t get interested in even one character and actively disliked most.

  28. Fernando says:

    Really? Really?? The oa is the dullest piece of tv garbage I have ever seen, pretentious, selfabsorbed, the most extreme yawnfest. Utterly boring

  29. biszatt says:

    Hmm, Zal did tweet on Sept 14th something about ‘making an 8 hour movie’, so that’s not a totally unbiased or original angle is it…

  30. sian says:

    Absolutely adored this show. It really struck something inside me too and more than once I found myself crying uncontrollably. I stayed up all night (even though I had a full shift at work in the morning) just to finish it all and it was worth it…it hasn’t really left me since I watched the whole thing on premier day…

    • Joanne says:

      sian, pretty mıch exactly how İ am feeling right now as İ finished episodes 7 & 8 tonight. Ep5 &6 got me too lol safe to say I loved it despite having more questions than answers. Bawled for the cafeteria scene, not done that in a long time.

  31. pheniqx says:

    Just FORCED myself through this absolute HORROR!!! I love a good mental thriller. But this was a slow paced metaphysical dive into absolute nothingness…I kept reading the reviews looking for the motivation to continue watching…every time I pushed myself to just finish, just get to the end, to ride the wave and see where it took me. NOWHERE! ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE…This 8 hours was a waste of weirdness. I love weirdness…but it should land somewhere that is worthy of the journey that we fight through to get there. Instead, this movie just drags on like a long engagement of a bad artist at a gallery of nothing art, in a magical building that only exists if you are lost. So I suggest you follow valid_username’s advice and RUN!! >Run. Run for your lives. This is indeed A soul sucking waste of time fetishizing mental illness/suicidal ideation/difference. Not clever. Not original. Soooo not original. Low budget Glee with interpretive dance.< I wish I had followed my first gut and missed this absolutely cringe worthy POWER RANGER AWFULness. 0/10

  32. debra77 says:

    Finished watching the show. And loved it. The ending was not a let down to me. It just left more possibilities. And I agree I will need to watch it again to see what I missed. I loved the ending. How it all came together.

    Plan B is a force. And I love the content they are producing. We use to have TV shows like this in the past. This is not new. The public would tune in each week to watch them. TV got away from that and it is good to see it back. I remember shows like North/South, Holocaust, Lonesome Dove; Movies of the week. So if I can get that on Netflix I’m in.

  33. Sean says:

    The OA is not a film. It’s a TV show. Correct your headline.

    • Tender Puppy! says:

      Seconded. I don’t quite understand the author’s insistence on labeling this MINI-SERIES a film. A mini-series is not a film. If it were a film, it would be condensed into a 2-3 hour segment and presented as a whole. (Maybe 4, if we were going full Russian auteur here.) There’s no shame in being a mini-series, so I don’t quite see how labeling it a film adds prestige or dignity to it when it has plenty of moxie on its own accord as a mini-series.

      That little gripe aside, I am tremendously excited to start watching this, particularly because I’m such a big fan of Emory Cohen ever since The Place Beyond the Pines. But also, simply because it sounds intriguing. Hopefully I’m one of the others in this comment section who fall into the “payoff” side rather than the “gypped” camp.

  34. gobanifar says:

    What a mean comment from sexracist (his name says it all). I was left crying too. I loved this show and the ending was breathtaking.

  35. Sexracist says:

    “left me crying uncontrollably for nearly half an hour”

    If this is true, the writer is a man in need of some major help. But is he really an emotional man-baby or just so self-absorbed that writing this kind of gross exaggertion is meant to be prove his bona fides somehow?

    The answer will be revealed after his next overdose of anti-anxiety medication!

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