Directors: Kalina Alabrudzinska and Piotr Domalewski
Cast: Sandra Drzymalska, Aleksandra Skraba and Maria Sobocińska
Cinematographer: Mikolaj Lebkowski
Editors: Magdalena Chowanska, Sebastian Mialik and Aleksandra Gowin
Streaming on: Netflix
What makes a good sex scene good? Is it the chemistry between the lead actors? The slow-burning anticipation of the moment? The way the camera frames their bodies in motion? Sexify, an eight-episode Polish series on Netflix, spends a lot of time asking what makes good sex good, but doesn’t extend the same thoughtfulness to its sex scenes. This is a show in which we see the protagonist’s breasts before her face, the electro-pop score is spliced with the sounds of moans and heavy breathing and characters get busy against transparent windows, in French maid outfits and with complete strangers. This much sex should not be this boring or this blandly clinical, but the show lacks either the sheer eroticism that makes sex scenes titillating or the emotional undercurrents that make them memorable.
It’s as though the show has internalized the coldly academic gaze of its protagonist, Natalia (Aleksandra Skraba). A virginal 23-year-old university student, Natalia is a class topper, lacks social skills and sleeps with a stern poster of Marie Curie above her bed. When a professor tells her that the sleep-optimization app she’s designing for a national competition isn’t sexy enough, Natalia decides to build one that optimizes the female orgasm. She ropes in her best friend Paulina (Maria Sobocinska), in a sexually unsatisfying relationship of her own, and free-spirited slacker Monika (Sandra Drzymalska), whose father won’t fund her lavish lifestyle unless she graduates.
Sex doesn’t just come to define the relationship between these characters, it’s also how the series quickly establishes their contrasting attitudes to it. The show begins with a gratuitous scene of Natalia in the shower, only to pan out and show that she’s there alone. Meanwhile, Paulina’s eyes glaze over with her boyfriend on top of her and Monika skips class for her regularly scheduled hookup. With little else but their varied sexual experiences to talk about, conversations between the three leads become dull and one-dimensional. There’s no warmth or shared history they can draw upon to imbue the show with emotion.
Sexify is also a prime example of Netflix bloat. When the characters aren’t having dull sex, they’re dragging out the show’s plots and themes over eight long episodes when a halved runtime would have sufficed. The side characters are plentiful, but they aren’t well developed enough to matter, popping in only to add to the banal conflicts or give the leads some pop-psychology motivation. And for all its talk of sexual pleasure and how to achieve it, there’s very little Sexify says that isn’t already obvious. Path-breaking insights from Natalia’s study include the observation that stress makes it harder to orgasm. Other headscratchers include weird nuggets of advice like “breathe through your vagina” and “urine is a woman’s power.” There are no repercussions for a male character who films couples having sex without their consent and shares the footage, a terrible choice for a show that claims to advocate safe and empowering sex.
“People only think about sex,” says Paulina in episode one. The show proves this repeatedly and it’s baffling, therefore, that everyone in this universe approaches it with the enthusiasm reserved for eating a bowl of cold oatmeal. For those looking for more heart and nuance, the Netflix algorithm would do well to recommend the infinitely better series Sex Education instead.