What to watch: Tales from the Loop

6:14 pm on 1 April 2024
Jan Thijs in a scene from Tales From The Loop.

Jan Thijs in a scene from Tales From The Loop. Photo: Amazon Prime

Run out of stuff to watch? Join us as we excavate the streamers' catalogues for the shows worth your time. This week: Tales from the Loop.

From those giddy days of the early 2020s when streamers would happily spend a gazillion dollars on the weirdest of ideas, Tales from the Loop is an anthology series based on a book of alternative reality paintings by Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag.

I was initially attracted to the show because of the directors. Names like Mark Romanek (Never Let Me Go), Andrew Stanton (WALLE) and Jodie Foster jumped out at me, and when Romanek - who as executive producer set the tone and aesthetic for the show - cited Kieslowski's Dekalog as an inspiration, I was there with bells on.

A scene from Tales From The Loop.

A scene from Tales From The Loop. Photo: Amazon Prime

The small mid-western town of Mercer sits on top of an experimental physics facility known as "The Loop". Somehow, the Loop is causing weird anomalies above ground that disrupt our understanding of space and time. The show, and the characters in it, are uninterested in the how and why of all of this, just the impact on their lives and relationships.

Two teenagers swap bodies and court catastrophe when one doesn't want to swap back, young lovers stop time around them but eventually tire of each other, and a grieving father enlists the help of a trash management robot to try and keep his family safe.

Each episode is a stand-alone story, focusing on different but related characters, and their choices have drastic unintended consequences later on as the stories knit themselves together.

Tales from the Loop is thoughtful, gentle and slow and, if you need another clue at how classy it all is, the score is by the legendary Philip Glass.

Is it worth a watch?

Story: 3.5/5 (while there's plenty of mystery and profound human drama, you don't watch this for the plot)

Production: 5/5 (an incredibly well achieved mix of the fantastic and the mundane)

Bingeability: 3.5/5 (only eight episodes but you should probably only watch one - or two at the most - at a time because you'll need to sit with them for a while)

If I liked this one, what shall I watch next?

Constellation (another show that uses quantum physics as a kind of magic to illuminate our fears of loneliness and loss)

The Ray Bradbury Theater (an unsung anthology series adapting stories by the great science-fiction writer)

The Leftovers (the greatest television series of the last decade, it also locates existential mystery in the heart of small-town America).

Tales from the Loop is streaming now on Prime Video.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs