365 Days On Netflix Review: The ‘Polish 50 Shades Of Grey’ Is As Exciting and Problematic As You Imagined

This one is more graphic, less hurried, and less invested in its characters, but really, who is here for the characterization?
365 Days On Netflix Review: The ‘Polish 50 Shades Of Grey’ Is As Exciting and Problematic As You Imagined

Director: Barbara Białowas, Tomasz Mandes
Writer: Barbara Bialowas,  Tomasz Klimala, Blanka Lipinska, Blanka Lipinska, Tomasz Mandes
Cast: Anna-Maria Sieklucka, Michele Morrone
Streaming Platform: Netflix

"Are you lost, baby girl?" Massimo (Michele Morrone) asks Laura (Anna-Maria Sieklucka) one night in Sicily as they bump into each other. They have never crossed paths before, but Massimo has had images of her face flashing across his mind, with a large painting of her face in his house, and is convinced that she is his saviour or lover, or something like that, and so dumps his girlfriend and pursues her, in his warped way. (Do you remember the eternally delayed oddball 2008 film Mehbooba, where Ajay Devgn paints pictures of his lover from his imagination only to search for that face in real life? You thought that idea was dated in 2008?) And so, he kidnaps her, holds her hostage, telling her in 365 days if she isn't in love with him, she is free to go. But of course, they fall in love, have an elaborate christening of their conjoined-privates in an explicit 4 minute scene on a yacht off at sea, till danger strikes. 

Because Massimo is an Italian gangster, and Laura is … a Polish something… they barely invest in her career apart from when she's introduced as foxy and provocative. At one point after her kidnapping and prolonged estrangement from her previous life, when she is back in Poland getting her hair done she gets a call about some promotion and she celebrates. But then it's never brought up again. And it's here that the parallels with 50 Shades Of Grey come up. Both have female leads with only some vague semblance of a job, and the men are devious, arrogant, sexy, and capital-M-mysterious. Understandably, both films are based on erotic books written by women. Curiously, both films have a questionable take on consent and female sexuality (the sex is over when the man is spent, always). 

Now, this film is topping the Trending Section on Netflix across the globe, after a successful  box-office run in Poland, and has spawned TikTok reaction videos (172 million video views for the #365Days hashtag) that will hopefully maintain the steam, keeping it on the Top 10 for at least a month. So we must have a deeper conversation about the film apart from its nudity. 

The relatively virginal first half is perched on the second half that goes on-and-on in more ways than one. Watching two beautiful people do unspeakable things to each other, the film sputters to boredom in between, which makes perfect sense- the film is designed as a quest for sex, not a quest for meaning or narrative. And though of course there are better ways to frontline sex without discarding a story (Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo had a 20 minute unsimulated orgy in a gay sex club and remains one of the most hearfelt odes to love emerging from lust) there's no point berating erotica for being erotica just because it isn't meaningful. 

But then there's this odd tension with consent where he tells her he won't do anything to her without her permission, but as he is saying this, he is grabbing onto her breasts and she's visibly shaking under. Even later on he says that he is the one ordering her lingerie and so he decides when he wants to see it. So consent is merely about the act of sex; grabbing, holding, kissing don't seem to need consent. See, if you want to make a film on the Stockholm Syndrome (which itself has been called to question for its possibly misogynistic origin) and how power-dynamics can be exponentially warped in certain spaces, take us there. 

But here, there's this pretense of equality which stinks of being afterthoughts, where he will give her pleasure and leisure and she will make him delicate (his words, not mine). With certain power-dynamics consent can get muddy, and that is always an interesting space to look at cinematically because morality is at stake. But here the man is clearly only virtue-signalling. He wants to be known as a man who respects consent, while simultaneously destroying it. And we are not supposed to get hot and bothered because he is sculpted by the gods, with privates that are sculpted by the devil (her words, not mine). I guess good sex forgives all?

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