Unseen review, a South African thriller

Gail Mabalane in Unseen

Unseen, a new South African thriller on Netflix, is based on the Turkish series Fatma, which I reviewed in 2021. When a desperate cleaning woman turns to murder her involvement goes unnoticed because no one pays any attention to cleaning women.

Unseen uses the same basic plot points as Fatma. A woman is in search of her missing husband who was just released from prison. Along the way she’s harassed by several men who want various things from her. She’s not a hardened killer, she simply happens to murder several men in a few days time. She didn’t even really mean to kill them.

Many of the details in the execution of the story are very different from the Turkish version, but the basic outline of the story remains the same.

Gail Mabalane in Unseen

Gail Mabalane plays Zenzi. Her husband Max (Vuyo Dabula) has been in prison. He didn’t commit the crime, but he did the time for his boss, a syndicate head, on the promise that they would care for his family while he was gone.

When Max found out his family was living in poverty with no help from the people who promised help, he threatened to expose the entire syndicate.

Zenzi and Max had a beautiful son, Esulu (Omhle Tshabalala). When Max started making threats, the criminals he had been protecting came after Zenzi. Esulu was killed in the scuffle. Max knew they were after him, so the minute he got out of prison he took off and stayed hidden while he tried to get the evidence he needed to convict the higher ups.

The main action in the six part series was Zenzi searching for Max and being put up against killers and criminals every step of the way. They wanted Max, too. The police finally noticed her and she was brought in for questioning by them.

Dineo Langa in Unseen

Zenzi had a sister, Naledi (Dineo Langa), who also lived in Cape Town. She was estranged from Zenzi and had plenty of money. The back story of the two sisters, who had suffered abuse as children, was not very well developed. It was given light sketch strokes. When Naledi realized how much trouble Zenzi was in, she stepped up to help.

The ending was ambiguous. We don’t know for sure what happened to Zenzi.

I thought Zenzi represented all the women who are furious at the men who use and abuse them, who disregard them, who treat them as invisible interchangeable cogs in their machinery. Some of that fury went into self defense, some into retribution for her son’s murder. She was determined and unstoppable.

The entire cast was good, however Gail Mabalane was outstanding as the main character. She’s been in several series, including Blood and Water. The shots of Cape Town were very well done and used.

The series was mostly in English and Tswana. The two languages were often mashed together in the same sentence, much like the Spanglish people speak in the Southwestern US.

Only one episode was directed by a woman, Twiggy Matiwana.

If you watch this one, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.

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