Unorthodox

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Unorthodox TV Poster Image
Intense story of a Hasidic woman's journey has some sex.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

We think this TV show stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

A strict religious community is humanized; we understand why Esty's community has the customs it does, as well as why she'd want to leave. Themes of courage and integrity are visible in storylines about people working hard to find a life that will make them happy, whether or not that suits tradition. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are painfully real and complicated; all have good intentions, which sometimes still have terrible effects on others. Esty is courageous and hard-working; at first trying with all her might to conform to her community's expectations and then leaving them behind entirely in an effort to gain a happier and more authentic life. Yanky is no villain, either; he attempts to learn what will make his wife happy, and acts as he's been taught a good husband does. Esty's family members and in-laws all have their own agendas but none are selfish or intentionally cruel, though they sometimes make her intensely unhappy. 

Violence

Scenes in which Yanky and Etsy attempt to have sex while Etsy writhes and shrieks in pain due to her vaginismus are hard to watch, yet the viewer understands that both are motivated to have sex, no one is being coerced (though you could call Etsy's background in which she's taught to submit to her husband and make as many babies as possible a type of coercion, depending on your viewpoint). Yanky's cousin Moishe has a few moments in which he seems to threaten Etsy's mother and he has a gun, but there are no physical altercations. A woman is given a gun in case she ever wants to die by suicide.

Sex

Many of Esty's problems with her marriage are sexual, see "Violence" section for more information. Esty is given formal instruction on how to be a "proper" wife, which include the information that sexually, "the man is the giver, the woman is the receiver" so "he must be on top." Esty is also told about her body (she believes she doesn't have "a hole for sex"), and about ritual cleansing and other customers that her culture tells her is important during and after her period. There is also passionate kissing, same- and opposite-sex, and a scene in which two men go to a brothel. A sex worker offers to do whatever a man likes. A woman's nude breasts are visible in a scene in which she takes a ritual bath. A man is briefly visible fully nude, front and back. 

Language

Language is a mix of Yiddish and English; no cursing, but at one point a woman uses the word "boobs." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Moishe constantly smokes cigarettes; characters drink wine at dinner parties and ceremonies and one character seems drunk and falls down during a ritual dance.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Unorthodox is a drama about a young woman who leaves her marriage and her Hasidic community in Brooklyn to move to Berlin and make a new life for herself. The Hasidic community is not demonized, nor are its members; audience members understand why their customs are so strict and so counter to typical American traditions, even though they ultimately make Esty's life unhappy. Much of the dialogue is in Yiddish, with some English and German. Many of Esty's problems with her marriage are sexual; there are many uncomfortable scenes of her and her husband attempting to have sex as she grimaces and cries with pain. There are also scenes of her instructions about being a good wife in the sexual sense, and how to ritually clean herself after her period each month. Men visit a brothel and a sex worker strips down to her bra and offers various sex acts. Same- and opposite-sex characters kiss passionately. A woman is visible nude during a ritual bath (we see her breasts) and a man is briefly seen nude from a distance before skinny dipping in a river. A character gives a gun to another, telling her she can use it to kill herself later if she wants to. Adults drink wine at dinner and at ceremonies; one character has a drinking problem and acts oddly, including a scene in which he falls down during a wedding dance. One character smokes cigarettes frequently. Themes of courage and integrity are painfully visible, as characters struggle to find a life that will make them happy, whether or not that suits tradition. 

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywizardortitan July 10, 2020

Stronger than the BBFC 12 rating implies

Unorthodox was originally rated in the UK using Netflix's self-rating tool, in which it received a 12. This decision was audited by the BBFC, and they uphe... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old July 6, 2020

My opinion

This series is more for teens and maybe mature 12 yr olds. If you can tolerate cringey and deep stuff then no problem, if not, I don't think this is for yo...

What's the story?

Loosely based on Deborah Feldman’s 2012 memoir, Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, UNORTHODOX tells the story of Esty (Shira Haas), a 19-year-old woman who flees her Orthodox Hasidic community in Brooklyn to make a new life for herself in Berlin. Raised by her loving grandmother (Ronit Asheri), Esty had a happy enough childhood despite the instability of her father (Gera Sandler) and her mother (Alex Reid) defecting from the community. But when the local matchmaker puts her together with Yanky (Amit Rahav) and the two marry, Esty's life begins to narrow unacceptably, particularly when she and Yanky have trouble consummating their marriage and her family members and in-laws begin pressuring her to get pregnant as soon as possible. When circumstances conspire to push Esty's concerns to the limit, she sees no other option than to make a drastic change, and Yanky sees no choice other than to try to locate and bring back his wife with the help of his troubled cousin Moishe (Jeff Wilbusch). 

Is it any good?

Shira Haas is extraordinary in this gripping tale of a woman who flees a life that leaves her miserable in favor of a future that's uncertain at best. Unorthodox takes place in a fascinating world that few viewers will have more than a passing familiarity with; just getting an eyeful of its customs -- Esty's wedding, the ritual mikvah she takes before it, the extraordinary shtreimel hats worn by the community's men -- is riveting. But when you add in Esty's story, truly a heroic quest, with an actor like Haas, who shows Esty's every emotion in her great staring lamps of eyes, the effect is positively riveting. From the moment Esty seizes her sneakily collected wad of cash and her identity documents before heading, shaking, out the door, viewers will be with her; the flashbacks to what she's had to endure up until this moment seal the deal. 

For though Esty's Satmar Hasidic community is close-knit and often quite loving, the collective trauma of the Holocaust echoes terribly through their modern lives, with young women like Esty married off as soon as possible to become, as one of Esty's new friends in Berlin says, "baby machines." As we soon learn, Esty's marriage was neither brimming with love nor easy on the physical level. And, as she tells that insensitive friend, huge eyes flashing, "I am not a baby machine." But she escaped, right? She was never in prison, Esty says. She left without telling anyone, and now she must find her own way. She understands the good intentions of her community, even as she couldn't handle the oppression. And watching her find her way is nothing short of magical. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about religion and belief systems. Does Unorthodox make Esty's Hasidic community seem strange and unacceptable, or familiar and understandable? What customs took you by surprise? Which seem to serve the interests of the people in the community? Which don't? Is it easy to understand why Esty would leave? What about understanding those who are happy to stay? 

  • Who are the villains in this series, if any? Do you understand why characters do what they do? Is there anyone who intentionally acts in a negative and unkind way? Can actions undertaken with good intentions still have negative effects? 

  • How do Esty and other characters demonstrate courage and integrity? Why are those important character strengths?

TV details

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