Stateless is now streaming on Netflix.
By Chris Flanagan
The Netflix Original Limited Series, Stateless, is a cautionary tale of how humanity is quantified when interacting with others in a more vulnerable position. There is a power that comes from that station and when fully embraced empathy towards others’ journeys can quickly be forgotten. Most importantly, while Stateless chooses to lean into these prevalent themes there is a cost to be paid. Sadly, that cost is that the limited series is often boring in its exploration of humanity.
Stateless centers around an Australian Immigration Detention Center that houses undocumented non-citizens that are seized from its borders in various ways. As prisoners are brought into its walls, the stories shift to showing each of the main character’s backstories and how they ended up there. But instead of simply focusing on the prisoners, Stateless attempts to cover the guard’s perspectives just as equally to ensure that the narrative is seen from both sides. This method mostly works as it drives home the point of gross ignorance from the officers towards the citizens they oversee daily especially as the audience understands that each occupant within the detention center is not a criminal or terrorist despite being lazily labeled as such.
Where Stateless shines is through its incredible cast. Yvonne Strahovsky, Jai Courtney and Fayssal Bazzi are just some of the standout performances as each are given ample screentime to bring their characters to life as they play a misidentified undocumented citizen, a refugee fleeing from a war-torn country and a security guard who has a direct influence on the detainee’s well-being. Each is given a well-written backstory with Strahovsky’s Sofie Werner being the most prominent as she is suffering from mistaken identity and thus forced to live in the detention center. Throughout her journey, we are able to see what drove her to running away from her previous life and how after searching for a sense of belonging she is able to find it within the walls of the detention center.
Stateless is an interesting product because it manages to interweave these very separate storylines within the similar location of the immigration detention center. And by doing so, it allows you to become invested in the individual stories of its residents while wishing for some outlier force to change their fate all while knowing that is not how these scenarios typically work. And yet, despite its ability to present fully developed characters, a relevant setting, and real conflict, it never surpasses being semi-entertaining throughout its six-episode run. The production, narrative structure, and acting are all superb but it never seems to equate to anything more than a good series when it should be so much more. That frustration amid its very poignant message is the hardest part of Stateless to endure. Its message needs to be heard, understood, and never ignored but within this format, it would have benefitted from being delivered on a reduced structure instead of the current size.
I give Stateless a B-.