One of the things we love about reviewing international TV series is that we get to find out about neighborhoods we never knew about. We’ve been to Mexico City, for instance, but never knew a neighborhood like La Condesa existed. So it’s fun to see a series about it, with two artists trying to make things work with themselves and each other. Oh, and there’s a cute dog, too.
AMSTERDAM: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: An on-screen “REC” button. A mouse pointer clicks on it, and a tattooed hand starts to play a riff on a keyboard.
The Gist: Nadia (Naian González Norvind), an actress, and Martín (Sebastián Buitrón), a musician, live together in the hip Mexico City neighborhood of La Condesa. They’ve been together for a while, which we can see from their interactions, which are often tense. When Martín inadvertently wakes Nadia up while recording some riffs, the two of them have a bitter exchange which leads Martín to head to a bar to hang out with friends.
As he’s walking to the bar, a scruffy dog starts following him, and waits for him until he comes out at closing time. Then the pup follows him back to his flat. Vis WhatsApp messages with Nadia, they decide to bring him home, feed him, and take him to the vet the next day. Hopefully, he belongs to someone.
But the presence of the dog lightens the mood between the two. And the still-unnamed dog becomes the focus of their day. Nadia goes on a movie audition, encouraging her friend Violeta (Danae Reynaud), who is going for the same part. She also goes on ad audition, where she has to kiss three different possible co-stars. One of them, Andy (Sebastián Aguirre), is directing an independent film, knows her work, and offers her a part.
Martín, working a sound engineer gig, runs into Marina (Ximena Romo), an old friend, and there’s an obvious attraction. He also finds himself attracted to Laura (María Evoli), the vet he brings the dog to, especially when she answers the door of her shop at closing time looking like she’s ready for a night out.
But when Martín and Nadia get the dog home, they have a moment together that they haven’t had in awhile. They name him Amsterdam, after the name of the street where Martín found him.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? The slow-moving, slice-of-life vibe of Amsterdam certainly gives us the same feel as shows like Master Of None.
Our Take: It seems that the initial plot of Amsterdam, written and directed by Gustavo Taretto, has to do with the dog that seems to bring Nadia and Martín closer again after a period where the couple just weren’t connecting. But it’s about something larger than that. It’s about an artistic couple who are trying to figure out their lives apart and together in this hip, historic neighborhood. It definitely shows what life is like in a section of Mexico City that not many people outside of Mexico know about, including lots of great visuals.
We are a bit concerned about the pace. Shows like this sometimes tend to forget that they do need some narrative momentum in order to keep people watching, even if the writing is solid and the performances are naturalistic and engaging. Certainly, Amsterdam has both. We believe Norvind and Buitrón as a couple who love each other but are sick of each other. At one point, Nadia tells Violeta that she has no plans on breaking up with Martín, and we believe her. Just because there’s tension, doesn’t mean that both ends of a couple don’t want to make things work. And that vibe is more than evident in the first episode.
There are hints that there will be that narrative momentum in the first season, even if it happens at a leisurely pace. Martín running into Marina will be explored, as will his attraction to Laura. On Nadia’s end, it seems that she’ll certainly become professionally involved with Andy and his film. Whether that turns personal or not is still yet to be seen, but it will certainly have an impact on Martín and Nadia.
But so will Amsterdam. Sometimes, having someone to care for, whether it’s a child or a fur baby, takes people’s focus off themselves and each other and eases tensions. As the doggie becomes more integrated into the couple’s life together, we’ll see how their interactions with each other change. We just hope that we don’t check out from boredom before that happens.
Sex and Skin: Nadia is naked in the shower when the dog surprises her, but we don’t really see anything.
Parting Shot: The couple sings a song Martín has written, and they are having more fun together than they’ve had in quite some time.
Sleeper Star: Three different dogs are credited as Amsterdam, and they’re all just GD adorable. Can you tell we’ve been itching to get a dog lately?
Most Pilot-y Line: Martín puts Nutella on bread for breakfast and then feeds a bit to Amsterdam. Doesn’t he know that chocolate is poison to dogs? And how does Amsterdam not get sick?
Our Call: STREAM IT. Despite its slow pace and somewhat heavy-handed hipster vibe, Amsterdam is a sweet story about a longtime couple who is just trying to make it in one of Mexico City’s most creative areas.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.