Column: 10 International Films to Stream as Summer Wanes
The summer may be coming to a close, and the Delta variant may be rearing its ugly head, but that doesn't mean we can't take to our small screens and at least imagine traveling to faraway destinations.
To help you out, here are ten international films currently streaming, mostly on Netflix. There's something here for everyone, so happy travels!
For the Whole Family
"Skater Girl" is an uplifting film from India about a teenager who finds purpose and independence when she learns to skateboard. In a rural village where she is destined to be married off shortly and her family can't afford basic school supplies, Prerna discovers a new world in the simple act of skating.
The film was inspired by similar real-life stories, which gives it even greater significance, and the actress playing Prerna is magnetic. You'll remember the contrasting colors of the local women's rich saris against the white-washed buildings of the village. An abusive father could scare very young children, but otherwise this film is fine for the whole family.
1990s-set Turkish film "Last Summer" offers some insight into the lives of teens in another part of the world. A group of lifelong friends gather for one last summer of increasingly less innocent fun at the beach. The gang is headed to college in the fall, and summer brings added suspense as they await test results that will determine their futures.
They're coming of age in a time before cell phones, and the film does a great job of depicting the excitement and potential dangers of teen experimentation without judging any of it. The Mediterranean setting is stunning. For older teens and up.
Austrian teen-led mystery "The Strange House" mixes a "Goonies"-ish ghost story with a "Stranger Things"-like gang of sleuths, all set in an isolated mountain town where the Austrian locals tease the German newbies for their accents. Not as memorable as the other titles, but this could still be a fun watch with teens.
Rom-Coms to the Rescue
The offbeat Brazilian comedy "The Secret Diary of an Exchange Student" sends two Rio-based twenty-somethings to upstate New York on an exchange program. They experience culture shock that rings quite funny for an American audience, though there is some gentle critique of the US in there as well.
The unfailingly positive attitude of the characters infuses this movie with such happy energy that you'll find yourself laughing at the most ridiculous scenarios. It's also fun to watch some of the American actors struggle through Portuguese – tables turned, for once.
From Indonesia, "A Perfect Fit" stumbles on some of its comedic timing and plays more like a soap opera than a serious film. But it's set in a sumptuous Bali, and the characters and their love story are ultimately very sweet. Worth a watch if this sounds like your cup of tea.
Likewise, Brazilian comedy "Carnaval" is "Sex in the City" light starring a wannabe Instagram influencer and her seriously stereotyped gal pals. They're on an all-expenses-paid trip to the weeklong Carnaval festivities in Salvador. The sexy setting brings the entertainment, and this film – like the event itself – is one big, high-spirited, fabulous-looking party.
In the affable "Tell Me When," a young Mexican-American man ventures from Los Angeles to Mexico City to discover his roots and maybe find himself as well. Along the way, he falls in love.
Mexico's capital city is on lovely display here, as the couple strolls through cosmopolitan neighborhoods, lush parks, and stunning monuments. Though the comedy doesn't always hit its mark, the film offers some perceptive commentary on what it means to be an immigrant and to live between two cultures and languages.
Looking for Some Action
"Beckett" stars John David Washington, is filmed mostly in English and could appear to be an American movie. Instead, the Italian production follows an American tourist who finds himself the target of rogue cops chasing him across the Greek countryside. There's suspense, politics and a whole lot of action.
The under-developed political plot might feel confusing, but you don't really need to understand why Beckett is on the run. The fun is in watching him repeatedly evade would-be killers in ways both believable and not so much.
Two recent European films exploit the possibilities for suspense in claustrophobic settings.
In French title "Oxygen," a woman wakes up in a coffin-shaped futuristic pod and has no idea how she got there or even where she is. She has limited time to figure things out before her oxygen expires.
In German film "Blood Red Sky," terrorists hijack a trans-Atlantic flight without realizing there's a vampire on board. She's there with her son, on route to a last desperate attempt at treatment to save her from her animal nature. This is one seriously bloody flight.
Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
This column originally ran in The Daily Record.