The Imposter – | Review Score – 3/5
Signs – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Alaska – | Review Score – 2.5/5
The Pond – | Review Score – 3/5
Mr Champi – | Review Score – 3.5/5
My Garden Is Dry– | Review Score – 2.5/5
The Package – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Ellipsis – | Review Score – 3/5
Spanish Netflix Original Valeria is essentially a poor-man’s modern day Sex and the City. On paper, this raunchy, quirky 8-episode series has the scope to explore modern relationships with enough romance and drama along the way to keep things exciting. The execution however leaves a lot to be desired.
From the archetypal characters that take far too long to warm to and struggle to step out the shadow of their American cousins, through to the cliched and unflattering love triangle angle for our married protagonist Valeria, Valeria is a show that squanders its potential in a big way. Despite a few stand-out moments along the way, this romance establishes itself as a very uneven and cliched melodrama.
The story itself starts off with a decent enough opening episode. Here, we’re introduced to struggling writer Valeria and her husband Adri. Caught with a nasty bout of writer’s block, Val finds refuge in her friends Lola, Carmen and Nerea who help raise her spirits. Immediately you sense the dynamic of the group, which mirrors that of Sex and the City for much of the first 4 episodes, and it’s not until the latter half of the show that these women start to branch out from that and establish their own identity.
The main crux of the drama though comes in the form of Valeria who meets a handsome stranger called Victor at Lola’s party and immediately sparks start to fly. Torn between her loyalty to her husband and truly embracing what makes her happy, the novel writing peels away during the middle chapters, threatening to derail the whole series with a story that expects you to empathise with a woman lying and deceiving her husband while he does his best to mend their relationship. While it does come to a natural conclusion at the end, it does feel like a bit of a cheap cop-out given how much the series builds up to the final moments.
Beefing out this main conflict are several subplots for the different ladies at the centre of this which do help to flesh out their personalities but the show certainly takes its time with this, given the second half is a bit of an improvement over the first. Nerea starts to embrace her own sexuality in an empowering story about her finding her place as a lesbian, Carmen starts an office romance with heart-throb Borja while Lola has an affair with married man Sergio before being allowed to branch out from feeling like a carbon copy of Samantha (from Sex and the City).
Stylistically, there’s a lot of nice musical montages, dozens of sex scenes and slapstick humour dotted throughout the series that does help to give this some identity. There are a few continuity issues between episodes as the timeline jumps forward haphazardly while the beginning of every episode features a sexual scene of some description, which is certainly a unique but somewhat trashy way to start each chapter.
Valeria never quite rises above mediocrity given its paper thin plot-line and cliffhanger ending, but there’s just enough in this to prevent it falling into the realm of outright terrible. To be honest, the strongest episodes here are 1, 5 and 8, meaning if you find yourself dwindling or losing patience with this, there’s another “good enough” episode just around the corner to keep you watching until the end.
At its best, Valeria is a very average Spanish series. The small glimmers of brilliance aren’t enough to brighten up the dull shades of grey and the show never quite steps out the shadow of Sex and the City throughout its runtime. There are some good elements to this but it’s a far cry from its American cousin, meaning you’ll probably find yourself longing to replay some of those old episodes with Carrie and the gang. There will be an audience for this no doubt, but Valeria doesn’t quite do enough to grow that and make this a must-watch Spanish sensation it so easily could have been.