Review: 'Awake'

Post by: Rick Ellis 27 February, 2021

While I'm not going to claim to be an expert on the television industry in Lebanon, I have seen several shows in the past and my general reaction has been that the shows struggle to overcome very small budgets and limited resources. There are talented people working in Lebanon, but the quality of acting can be erratic from performer to performer and technical skills like editing and scoring can often seem clunky and not up to international industry standards.

All of those problems seem to have been overcome in 2019's Awake, which was created and written by Nadia Tabbara. The series revolves around Dana (played by Flavia Bechara) a woman who unexpectedly wakes up after spending 11 years in a coma. She doesn't remember much of what happened and as she struggles to recover physically and mentally, she also has to try and figure out where she fits in a new world filled with unexpected technology, an unfamiliar political climate and sisters who have been living their own lives for more than a decade. And then there's the matter of that imaginary Dana she keeps seeing at the most unsettling moments.

Awake deftly gets through Dana's awakening and year-long recovery in the first episode and then moves on to the challenges you would expect to see in a series that deals with the aftermath of a long coma. But as the series unfolds, Dana discovers her family and friends are holding on to some secrets that could threaten the new life she's built for herself. Among those secrets is the growing realization that the "accident" that put her in a coma might not have been as accidental as she has been told.

I've seen eight of the season's 16 episodes - MHz is releasing two more a week through the end of March. But from what I've seen so far, Awake is well worth watching. The acting is over-all first rate. Flavia Bechara's handling of the complexities of Dana's life took a bit of getting used to for me. At first, she seemed timid in a way that didn't seem to fit. But as the episodes rolled out, I understood her choices better and realized that the hesitancy was more a reflection of the character than an acting choice.

The biggest standout for me was Stephanie Atallah, who plays Dana's younger sister Alma. She's bright and complex and has that on-camera charisma that fills every scene she's in. She's certainly compelling enough to make the move to international productions and I hope she gets her chance.

Watching a subtitled TV series from Lebanon might sound like a daunting task, but Awake is worth it. It's not just good television, it's a look at a society and lifestyle that isn't often seen in America.  It's another example of the growing trend of quality TV coming from unexpected places.

Awake is currently streaming on MHz Choice.

Last modified on Tuesday, 23 March 2021 10:10

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