Last year's Spanish political drama Intimacy (original title: Intimidad) gathered a lot of attention in terms of viewership numbers, though it is definitely not a show that will be a winner, or even a nominee, of the major television awards as its shortcomings are rather conspicuous and its deficiencies become all the more irksome due to its duration (the story concludes in 8 episodes). While the creators of the series tackle several sizzling social themes that have become a serious issue in the age of the social media dominance such as the breaching of an individual's privacy, victim blaming, and systemic sexism in the political scene and working environments, the screenplay, signed by Victoria Fernandez and Laura Sarmiento, lacks the proper depth that is required for dissecting and analyzing such subjects. The story interconnects the lives of four different women, of divergent social and class backgrounds, living and working in today's Bilbao, the coastal city in Northern Spain which is also the largest one in the Basque country. Malen, Bego, Alicia, and Ane are each struggling to come in terms with the aftermath of the public release of two intimate sex videos, each exposing and embarrassing the characters of Malen and Ane.
While Malen's story unfolds in the present timeline, we watch Ane's story through the -extensive- use of flashbacks recounting her days in her job after one of her colleagues had disseminated an unseemly video of her. The first episode commences with a shot of a young woman floating in the waters of a lake as we hear, in voice over, a female voice saying: "Don't look at me like that ... I didn't expect this to be the end either". It is through the course of that episode that we learn the young woman's identity, she is Ane (Verónica Echegui), a young woman who took her own life after a revenge porn video displaying her getting in involved in rough group sex was leaked and then circulated among her colleagues in the factory she worked. The other woman affected by a similar offense is Malen (Itziar Ituño), the deputy mayor of Bilbao and the woman destined to become the next alcalde of the city. The leaking of a video showing her having sex in a beach in France with a man who is not visible on screen, upends her levelled existence with repercussions that extend from her political career to the unity of her family. Malen is married to Alfredo (Marc Martínez), though their matrimony only exists for appearances sake. Somewhere there, there is a concealed rebuke of the current status quo in Spanish politics that compels women to be married in order to survive whereas their male counterparts often have an illustrious career in governmental positions without having to carry the aforementioned burden. The discrepancy between society's treatment of women and men is another missed chance at exercising a productive critique of the contemporary Spanish reality.
Apart from Male and Ane, two more women frame the main storyline of the show. Alicia (Ana Wagener) is the officer in charge of the Bilbao's IT Crimes Division which deals with cases where the privacy of a citizen is compromised. Alicia will become entangled in the investigation of both Ane and Malen's cases as she is extremely meticulous in her job which he deems highly significant, firmly supporting the belief that the culprits of such crimes should be located and punished by the authorities. The last character is that of Bego, Ane's sister and the person that begins a crusade to find the men responsible for her sibling's tragic fate, with the help of Alicia who stands beside her as a restless companion throughout the course of the show. In parallel, we get a glimpse in the personal life of Alicia, a middle-aged lesbian living with her girlfriend who is frantically trying to get pregnant, something that causes friction in the relationship between the two women, a sub-plot which, like many others in this series, remains largely unexplored and underdeveloped. The narrative focus is fixed on Malen and her family life that disintegrates from the moment that the controversial video is out for the world to see. Malen's teenage daughter, Leire (Yune Nogueiras), has a hard time dealing with the reporters who are constantly outside her house and her schoolmates teasing and reminding her of her mother's predicament. When her intimate relationship with her boyfriend gets affected too by the fateful event, Leire will start to spiral downward, exhibiting antisocial behavior that reaches unacceptable levels.
Intimacy would have a more potent effect to the audience if it probed consistently into the political aspect of the plot that, especially after the first episode, gradually fades in the background while the focus is centered, almost exclusively, on the emotional state of the main characters. Failing to sufficiently cover its pronounced motifs emanating from the story, the show seems to be forever restricted, or else trapped, within the realm of the trite and the banal. One of the production's upsides is the satisfying performances by all the major characters, with Patricia López Arnaiz as Bego and Yune Nogueiras as Leire stealing the show. Nogueiras, a young actress with a bright future ahead of her, brings forth a vivacity and verisimilitude in her authentic portrayal of a teenage in crisis who is experiencing such overwhelming feelings that may result to her own self-destruction. Fans of the infamous Casa de Papel series will stumble upon a familiar figure as Itziar Ituño, the Professor's arch-nemesis in the first seasons of the renowned show, delivers a solid performance as the protagonist, Malen, letting for some brief moments the inner devastation caused by her humiliation slip through the cracks of her façade and become evident in her facial expressions and body language. Ana Wagener is the most seasoned actress among the show's acting ensemble and her depiction of the aging Alicia, struggling to balance between leading a conscientious professional life and remaining a deserving life companion for her partner, is more than decent.
Overall, I would say that while Intimacy shouldn't be on top of your list indexing the next shows you plan to devour, it remains watchable and it would be certainly more appealing if it ended in five episodes instead of eight. Due to the -undisputable- fact that the latest Spanish productions, either film or television series, distributed by Netflix tended to underwhelm and disappoint the audience, this can be deemed an above-average work in comparison. If you wish to spend a few relaxed hours watching a production that doesn't demand your full concentration or meticulous scrutiny of the dialogue and plot, then this is a good choice.