Watching: A Fantastic Foreign Drama

And a big batch of newly streaming movies.

Author Headshot

By Margaret Lyons

Television Critic

Dear Watchers,

What’s in a self-portrait? Way, way more than appears at first glance, as explained in this fascinating look at all the details in Albrecht Dürer’s painting from 1500.

See you Wednesday.


I want a foreign drama

Ane Gabarain, left, and Elena Irureta in the first episode of “Patria.”HBO Europe


When to watch: Now on HBO Max, or Wednesday at 9 p.m. on HBO Latino.

This fantastic new drama (in Spanish, with English subtitles, or dubbed) follows aspects of Basque separatist terrorism and its effects on two families, although the exact contours of the characters’ conflicts take a while to reveal themselves. Episodes bounce around in time, covering 30 years of political and personal strife, and the show has an intimate, specific feel — you really understand everyone, how they gulp coffee or show off a new haircut, how they complain or start arguments, how they think they know what’s going to happen and thus create their own fates. If you like the bleak frankness of “Gomorrah,” the emotional complexities of “My Brilliant Friend” or the “older women have stories, too, you know” of “Happy Valley,” this is for you.


I want stand-up

Michelle Buteau in her new stand-up special.Marcus Price

‘Michelle Buteau: Welcome to Buteaupia’

When to watch: Arrives Tuesday, on Netflix.

There are few things better than sitting across from a friend when they gasp, open their eyes wide and devilishly say, “Oh, did I tell you … ?,” and you know you are in for some fabulous combination of humor and hot goss. That’s what Michelle Buteau’s new stand-up special feels like. She jokes about marriage, parenting twins, celebrity; she gives dating advice; she does nimble crowd work. In addition to being funny, Buteau seems like she’s actually having fun — which feels especially bright and welcome when a lot of current stand-up has a strong let-me-remix-my-shame vibe.


Hm, something else

A 911 operator provides guidance in the first episode of “Emergency Call.”ABC

  • “Emergency Call,” which airs Monday at 10 p.m. on ABC, is sort of like “Rescue 911,” only with Luke Wilson instead of William Shatner. (And no re-enactments, thank goodness.)
  • The first presidential debate is Tuesday at 9 p.m. on every network, PBS and some cable stations.
  • A “South Park” pandemic special airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Comedy Central.

Your newly available movies

The neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks, as seen in a new documentary by Ric Burns.Bill Hayes/Zeitgeist Films

Our critics recommend two documentaries this week: “Bird Island,” a whimsical hourlong feature about an ornithological rehab center in Geneva, and “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life,” a complicated profile of the famed neurologist. Teens might also like the sleuthing of Netflix’s “Enola Holmes,” starring Millie Bobby Brown of “Stranger Things.”

Some independent films are available via “virtual cinemas,” which share the rental fees between distributors and theaters. Unless otherwise noted, other titles can generally be rented on the usual platforms, including Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube. — Scott Tobias

‘Bird Island’ (A Critic’s Pick; Mubi only)

Using square frames and bright, sunlit shots, Maya Kosa and Sergio da Costa capture the characters’ hands in close-up as they delicately maneuver bodies and flesh. A raspberry is speared onto a twig. A worm is inserted into a crevice in a tree trunk. The eyes of a dazed owl are gently opened, its feathers stroked. These scenes exude a magical tenderness that softens even the film’s many images of injury and death. — Glenn Kenny (Read the full review here.)

‘Enola Holmes’ (Netflix only)

On the surface, “Enola Holmes” is about a young woman in search of herself, but the film’s value comes from a deeper investigation of power, familial bonds and the risks of changing a world determined to stay the same. — Lovia Gyarkye (Read the full review here.)


It’s mildly amusing to watch Rhys Ifans swan about in a pageant crown and cape when he shows the contestants how to walk onstage. The contenders tee-hee-hee and you might too, even if there’s nothing all that funny about how strenuously the movie tries to soft-pedal sexual exploitation. — Manohla Dargis (Read the full review here.)

‘Oliver Sacks: His Own Life’ (A Critic’s Pick; Kino Marquee and Film Forum virtual cinema)

A deftly edited mix of archival footage, still imagery, talking-head interviews and in-the-moment narrative, “His Own Life” — which in a perfect world would be a companion piece to Sacks’s book, not the substitute some might make it — illuminates details of what can only be called an extraordinary existence. — Glenn Kenny (Read the full review here.)

‘Secret Society of Second Born Royals’ (Disney+ only)

A weird blend of toddler temptations (weaponized butterflies, lots of princesses) and adult politics (anti-monarchist protests, a bomb threat at a coronation), “Second-Born Royals” doesn’t know how to be kid-friendly without being dumb. — Jeannette Catsoulis (Read the full review here.)

Also newly available:


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