In the last couple of years, Hollywood has come to the realization that to serve the North American audience is not enough. Thanks to the magic of the internet, and specially thanks to how streaming services are able to debut shows everywhere at once. It is clear that when you do a movie, a TV shows or a book, you are not only making that for your local audience, you are making your product for the entire global audience.
Seeing things in this way, it isn’t surprising that Apple TV + just like Netflix, and HBO Max before, are little by little stepping on into the international market. Everybody wants another Squid Game, so you need to appeal to everyone, being the talking piece in the USA isn’t going to cut it anymore. So what could be better than to try making something that can appeal to the Spanish-speaking audience? One of the most spoken languages in the world.
The result of this endeavor is Now & Then, a mystery thriller developed by Ramon Campos, Gema R. Neira, and Teresa Fernandez-Valdes for Apple TV+. The show tells the story of a group of friends guarding a terrible secret. You see, 20 years ago the group was involved in the death of one of them, and throughout the years they have kept it a secret. There is an issue though, now 20 years later someone seems to know about what happened that fateful night and that person is trying to blackmail the group and ruin their precious lives.
Now & Then is one slick production package, the show was filmed in Miami, and just like the city itself, the show recreates how life in that city goes around every day. The best example is in the way the languages are spoken. This is a bilingual show in every definition, as the story jumps back and forth between English and Spanish. A reality that anyone living in it could certify it.
These sense of a city or a country speaking more than one language is often mirrored in TV and movies, but not to this degree. Just by doing this, the show stands apart from other similar shows with similar premises. The show is then able to appeal not only to someone living in this kind of environment; which Miami isn’t the only in the world. But also to anyone that has the need to go to some other country and start from scratch learning another language.
The experience of the immigrant isn’t the only thing that makes the show feel like it is going the extra mile. The direction, the acting, and the writing are also held to high standards. Maybe it is the Apple money behind it, but no matter what it is, the resources are being very well-used. The series really doesn’t feel like any other in terms of visual clarity and production values.
The premise itself though somewhat lackluster. We have seen this one played in very different scenarios before, from the classic slasher “I Know What You Did Last Summer” to most recently in Showtime where the premise was used to ignite the excellent Yellowjackets. So, at least for the moment, Now & Then still needs to prove that it is a story worth following. What there is right now is solid, so you won’t feel like you are wasting your time.
The show also boasts an excellent cast of actors, coming from every part of the Spanish-speaking world. Marina de Tavira, Jose Maria Yazpik, Maribel Verdu, Soledad Villamil, and even Manolo Cardona, coming out of the success of Who Killed Sara? On Netflix, make up the main cast. These are all professional actors that deliver the best every time you hire them for a movie or a TV show. The chemistry between them is quite noticeable and that will make for most of the attraction the show can have on an audience.
If there is something that doesn’t really click on the show is the structural decision of going back and forth between timelines. This structure is part of the premise, but unlike Yellowjackets, for example, the young counterparts to the adult actors don’t really seem to match or be as charismatic as their adult versions. This makes for the flashbacks to be a bit boring. This is a show where solving the mystery in the present and seeing the consequences of the past are far more interesting than seeing the past played out.
Of course, this entire structure comes with using such a narrative device in the first place. However, it would have been nice if the series had managed to not simply use the most expected of answers and dared to do something different. At least with the first three episodes, it feels like we are exploring old ground.
Nevertheless, Now & Then shows an insane amount of promise, thanks to a wonderful sense of direction in each episode. A fantastic cast, an entertaining and intriguing mystery, and also the fact that Apple TV+ is willing to bet on productions outside the Hollywood bubble with a lot more frequency now. If the bet is successful, we should get ready to see a lot more of these in the future.