50M2

Engin Ozturk stars as Shadow in the Turkish crime comedy "50m2" now streaming on Netflix.

'50m2' (Netflix)

The title of this Turkish crime comedy refers to the size of a small room in a neighborhood in Istanbul — 50 square meters — that serves as the setting for this series and as a hideout for mobster tough guy known only as Shadow (Engin Ozturk). Raised as an orphan by the mob boss he works for, Shadow’s devoted his life to a specific narrative about his parents, but when it all turns inside-out on a chance encounter with a reporter, Shadow takes another man’s identity and seeks safety in the tailor shop of that man’s deceased father.

Half the story is of Shadow evading the figures from his criminal past seeking him, while the other follows his slow, awkward settling into the neighborhood. It’s in that second part where the charm lies, particularly as he finds himself straddled with the bickering old neighborhood leaders, including Muhtar (Cengiz Bozkurt), and others who provide the heart of the show and the humor that prevents it from becoming too macho for its own good. Each part feeds off each other pretty well, and the blend makes for good viewing with alluring scenery.

'The Minister' (Topic)

This may just be American condescension but I never think of Iceland as a political hotbed begging for an inside government drama. Add mental illness to the scenario, though, and any doubts are cast away.

That’s what happens when liberal populist Benedikt Ríkarðsson (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) is elected prime minister. Propelled by an uncompromising and fresh vision for Icelanders, and the ability to deliver his ideas about these in a personable and candid way, Benedikt seems like one of those transformative political figures. But as his inner demons break through their barricade and infest his behavior first in his private life and then spilling into public life, his incoherency spurs behind the scenes panic to keep him in check and enables some to move forward in their own power plots.

It’s a decidedly different sort of political drama that The Minister presents and Benedikt’s mental illness is really what makes it work, particularly with Olafsson in the role. He’s familiar to American audiences for his role in "Trapped," but Benedikt is as far from the measured, largely calm police investigator as it can get. One moment a mesmerizing teddy bear of a man exuding powerful good cheer, the next a confused mess reacting violently against his own delusions, Olafsson seizes your attention and becomes the center of it, providing a magnetic anchor that gives The Minister its own place in the realm of political shows.

'Small Axe' (Amazon Prime)

Filmmaker Steve McQueen offers an episodic anthology series — comprised of five films — revolving around London's West Indian community from the 1960s to the 1980s, more often than not taking real events and transforming them into compelling screen stories that address issues and history within the community.

The main focus of many of the films in the series is the community’s struggle against the white institutions in England — namely the law in the form of the police and the courts — and how struggle and victory is determined by the strength of community. These take the form of powerfully performed and well-written conventional narratives, as in "Mangrove," which depicts the battle to save a local restaurant that has been raided or as in "Red, White and Blue," which follows a community member’s life as a Black policeman.

But it’s the film “Lover’s Rock” that grabs your attention more than any other. Capturing one night at a house party, it creates a Black-only space where the oppressors are locked out and serve mostly as distant monsters. Given the safe space of the party that allows for less self-conscious behavior, McQueen captures the way in which the inner tension of daily life explodes into a dance party that exists in a dream-like erotic universe where emotions seep into the atmosphere and create a surrealism amidst the chaos of attendees moves and emotions. It’s a singular masterpiece planted in the middle of outstanding depictions of a community’s struggles. The other films lay out the events, but “Lover’s Rock” slams you with the intangibles that lurk inside people.

John Seven is a writer in North Adams who has never been satisfied by movies and television that are easy to come by. He likes to do some digging. Find him online at johnseven.me.