The hype is immense whenever Netflix decides to bring forth a contentious true story, and I dare say, the result is not worth the hype all the time. When They See Us, does not fall in that zone. This Netflix series is about five Harlem teens who face the most prolonged nightmare of their lives when they’re falsely accused of a brutal attack in Central Park. The drama scores a home run with just the right amount of horror and fear. The events of that evening led to several teenagers spending a large part of their youth behind bars, for no fault of their own.
The commentary about race and justice is ongoing and When They See Us tackles that amply, however, the focus in this show and this story, is more humane than social. The repulsion you feel when the lawyers in the court describe the teens as ‘animals on a bloody rampage’ is too real, and you feel helpless. The emotions that this Netflix show manages to stir bring you in uncomfortable proximity with feelings of indifference, bigotry, and hate that we are surrounded by and forced to reckon with even today. Most of the close-ended, crime-based true stories lack the vulnerability that this one proudly flaunts.
The entire narration is grim, but the Netflix series never goes dark, and the credit for it goes to the director. Ava Marie DuVernay keeps humanity intact with heartwarming talks and showing life even when everything around seems to decay. She walks us through the stories of misunderstood men with a critique of the justice system but also with an understanding that the system is often destined to fail the weaker sections.
When They See Us is currently the best form of real-life based drama streaming on Netflix, possibly second only to Chernobyl( read my review of Chernobyl here). And just like the latter, it shines with its emotions placed rightly in the most inhumane environment — a must watch.