Swinging ‘60s, a grief-fulled murder mystery and Jessica Alba doing 'spy shit’: what we’re streaming in July

The Conversation
The Conversation

Ready to dive into the latest buzz from the screens?

In this month’s streaming list you’ll find not one, not two, but three Australian productions, including one starring a lead you will definitely recognise if you’ve seen Love On The Spectrum. ABC’s quirky new comedy show, Austin, tells the story of a 28-year-old autistic man (played by autistic actor Michael Theo) as he connects with his dad for the first time.

Netflix film Trigger Warning and Stan’s new series Exposure both delve into investigations of suspicious deaths, delivering boatloads of suspense and, in the latter’s case, a clever exploration of grief and trauma.

And over on SBS, The Responder stars Martin Freeman (of The Office fame) in a gritty role as a Liverpool cop.

Whether you’re in the mood for comedy, action, drama or mystery, there’s something here to add to your watchlist. So grab your snacks and settle in!


Read more: Carriage romps, good vibrations and a web of lies: what we're streaming in June


Austin

ABC iView

ABC’s new comedy series follows Austin as he connects for the first time with his biological father, Julian (Ben Miller). Julian is married with a family in London, while Austin lives in Canberra. When they connect, Austin must navigate his complex role as an extramarital child, while Julian’s family must adapt to having a young autistic man in their lives.

Despite some drawbacks, the show offers a warm and unique depiction of autism and neurodiversity – one that challenges the audience to confront and reconsider their assumptions about autistic people.

Austin has several traits that will undoubtedly resonate for many autistic people (many of which are used for comedic effect). For example, he is extremely literal, often misses sarcasm and is direct to the point of being brutally honest. His engagement with cultural norms is also often mismatched with the context, such as when he wears a suit to dinner at home.

In some cases, however, these depictions miss the mark. As an autistic viewer, I sometimes felt included in the joke, but sometimes felt I was the joke.

But while there is room for progress, there are also many steps in the right direction – and a great foundation laid for season two.

– Beth Radulski


Read more: ABC's new comedy Austin grapples with autism stereotypes – with mixed success


Ladies in Black

ABC iView

ABC’s Ladies in Black follows a group of women working at Sydney’s Goodes luxury department store in 1961. It takes place shortly after the events in Madeleine St John’s original 1993 novel, The Woman In Black, and its various subsequent adaptations.

The series opens with lead character Magda (Debi Mazar) striding assuredly down the main street as we hear Peggy Lee’s famous 1962 feminist anthem I’m A Woman. It’s an apt opening: Ladies in Black is, in essence, a story about women striving to establish their place in the world.

Mazar is joined by Jessica De Gouw as Fay, Clare Hughes as Lisa and Azizi Donnelly as Angela. Miranda Otto plays the terrifying Mrs Ambrose – the foil against the other characters. She has been recruited from Harrods to be the head of the store’s “model gowns” and we quickly realise it’s either her way or the highway.

Over six parts, we witness the Goodes posse navigate the complexity of the swinging sixties through a frame of fashion, sex and friendship. All the while, the sexism, classism and racism of the era remain obvious.

If you enjoy womens’ stories played by women leads, shopping, or 1960s fashion, Ladies in Black is one to watch.

– Lisa French


Read more: ABC's new series Ladies in Black gives us vintage fashions and feminist anthems


The Responder

SBS On Demand (Australia) and TVNZ+ (New Zealand)

As the political tragics among us watch the UK election campaign with a mix of open-mouthed horror and astonishment, The Responder’s bleak depiction of post-austerity Britain is timely viewing.

Set in Liverpool, the series follows Chris, a police response officer (played by Martin Freeman) on night shifts. Chris is a former Inspector and it is clear this role is a demotion – and a punishment. He is partnered with probationary constable Rachel (Adelayo Adedayo), who is anxious to do things by the book. But The Responder suggests doing things by the book is impossible in a system that is falling apart.

The series is a powerful portrait of Britain as a failing state, where hollowed-out institutions create the conditions for corruption. Freeman brings warmth to the traumatised but resourceful Chris, and Adedayo is amazing as the inexperienced Rachel. Together they are joined by a strong supporting cast, especially Emily Fairn as the feckless drug user Casey.

The series’ depiction of coercive control is especially chilling. Just as gripping as the excellent British police series Blue Lights, but far bleaker, The Responder is an incredibly tense and propulsive drama.

- Michelle Arrow

Trigger Warning

Netflix

Trigger Warning sees Jessica Alba return to her Dark Angel action days after a hiatus from acting to focus on motherhood. Alba plays Mexican-American special forces operative Parker Calvo who returns home from “killing terrorists, doing spy shit” to investigate the suspicious death of her father, “Pops”.

Many of the expected genre beats of your bog-standard 1980s action film are on display here: Parker is a surly, whisky-drinking, cigarette smoking badass who is happiest while wielding a knife and smashing heads with bad guys. The film is also unabashedly pro-military. Pops fought in Vietnam, and sentimental father–daughter flashbacks reveal service is “part of our legacy”.

There are some novel aspects, however. While action films of the ‘80s tend to pit our reluctant all-American heroes against South American drug cartels, the threat in Trigger Warning comes from within. Not only is Parker a woman of colour, but she’s up against white male terrorists – rednecks who are illegally selling military weapons on a crusade to preserve “freedom, faith and family” at all costs.

Overall, Trigger Warning could be considered the ultimate Friday night viewing: it is both mindlessly enjoyable and also forgettable. Perhaps that’s why – despite making Netflix’s Top 10 films list – it got an appalling Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 23%.

- Rachel Williamson

Exposure

Stan

This review deals with themes of suicide.

Grief informs much of Exposure, a new art house thriller series set primarily in Port Kembla, Wollongong. The series is created by Lucy Coleman, directed by Bonnie Moir and features a strong lead performance from Alice Englert.

Episode one opens with the tragic death by suicide of Kel (Mia Artemis). Kel is discovered by her best friend Jacs (Englert), whose photograph of the discovery controversially wins her an art prize. Reeling from the loss, Jacs returns home to stay with her mother (Essie Davies). Looking through Kel’s phone, she discovers some concerning messages that set a broader investigation in motion.

Exposure cleverly uses a mystery framing to explore Jacs’ grief. She knows Kel was regularly visiting a man in Port Kembla so that’s where she might find some answers. Who is this man? Did he play a role in her death?

The investigation is interspersed with footage from a boozy Bali trip the two girls went on, where they drank, danced and met a party boy named Raffa (Sean Keenan). The raucous, sudden cuts to the past reminded me of Sharp Objects, another brilliant series about processing trauma.

Exposure is a heavy watch – with some scenes being particularly difficult to sit through. But it’s fantastic to see such well-crafted Australian storytelling onscreen.

- Stuart Richards

If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

This article is republished from The Conversation. It was written by: Michelle Arrow, Macquarie University; Beth Radulski, La Trobe University; Lisa French, RMIT University; Rachel Williamson, University of Canterbury, and Stuart Richards, University of South Australia

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Michelle Arrow receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

Beth Radulski receives funding from La Trobe University.

Lisa French, Rachel Williamson, and Stuart Richards do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.