Her biggest sin? That she wanted to be more than just a good wife and a mother. Her sole wish? To be her self.
The Unorthodox miniseries, based on Deborah Feldman’s 2012 book detailing her scandalous rejection of her Hasidic roots, sees actress Shira Haas, dedicatedly shaving her head to become the faithful wife Esty. Just over one and a half metres tall, the Israeli actress was the ideal choice for the part, both due to her personal connection with the plot (her grandfather was an Auschwitz survivor) and because of her acting experience.
Esty, with no money or education, decides to escape her ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn to chase her dreams, without knowing what those are. She ends up in Berlin, where she experiences joy, perhaps for the first time.
Despite its very focussed storyline – centring on a particularly deeply religious group of people who are building a community to replace the six million Jews lost in the holocaust, contemporary viewers can easily identify with the show. The four episodes touch upon a variety of issues including sexual pleasure, consent, trauma, coming-of-age, and the difficulties of moving to another country.
It also highlights how hard it is to shake off your past in a beautiful song that was Etsy’s shot at independence. She made the first step to individuality which revealed her strong ties to her Jewish heritage.
The series, lasting less than four hours, requires your undivided attention. Partly because it is primarily in Yiddish, and partly because of its extensive use of allegories.
Admittedly, Unorthodox has one of the most nerve-racking endings, teasing you about what will happen but at the same time doesn’t straightforwardly give it to you. It is a shame there won’t be a second season.