America is losing it. Amid everything that’s going on — the worldwide protests against police brutality and white supremacy, the continuing coronavirus pandemic that isn’t going away no matter how much people pretend it’s winding down, and the economic downturn that’s only going to get worse when enhanced unemployment ends — the No. 1 movie or TV show on Netflix is 365 Days, an erotic drama from Poland that’s so graphic and so bad that it makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like Casablanca.
365 Days is a bona fide under the radar hit, which arrived on Netflix on June 7 with so little promotion you’d think the streaming service was ashamed to release it. It quickly shot up the daily top 10 chart and reached the No. 1 spot by the end of the week. It was briefly unseated by actually good movie Da 5 Bloods over the weekend, but has since retaken the top spot. And it’s not just a hit in America, either; it’s reached Netflix’s top three in Germany, Lithuania, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey, Sweden, Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Romania, South Africa, Portugal, India, the United Arab Emirates, Great Britain, Mauritius, Canada, and Israel. The whole world is going crazy over this movie.
The movie, known as 365 dni in Polish, is a twisted romantic fantasy about a fiery Polish woman named Laura (Anna-Maria Sieklucka) and a dominant Sicilian gangster named Massimo (Michele Morrone). Massimo becomes obsessed with Laura after he sees her walking on a beach and five years later kidnaps her. He tells her that he will keep her prisoner for 365 days until she falls in love with him. If she doesn’t, he will let her go. But she does fall for him long before the year is up, because he’s such a possessive and passionate man that she finds him irresistible. He won’t touch her without her permission, but he has trouble following his own rule because he’s so used to taking whatever he wants.
Even setting aside the movie’s brainlessly problematic message about Stockholm Syndrome and abusive relationships, 365 Days is a bad movie. The plot is incoherent, the characters are poorly defined, and the filmmaking is incompetent. In one scene, Massimo pulls a gun on a rival gangster who’s harassing Laura, but he doesn’t shoot him. Then in the next scene, another member of his crime family asks him, “Are you aware of who you have shot?” Directors Barbara Białowąs and Tomasz Mandes will not be winning any Orlys for this movie.
But that doesn’t matter, because people aren’t watching it because it’s good. They’re watching it because it’s as hardcore as softcore gets. The sex scenes are lengthy and lurid and grind the plot to a halt, but since they’re the whole point of the movie, that’s a futile complaint. The boat scene in particular is more P-hub than Netflix. To find a mainstream narrative film as graphic, you’d have to look to arthouse movies with unsimulated sex scenes like 9 Songs or Love.
So that’s why 365 Days is so popular. The harder question to answer is, why now? Is it because being cooped up in quarantine has made people psychotically horny? Is it because the lack of control over their own lives people feel even more acutely than usual right now has them longing for escape into a fantasy where control is voluntarily ceded? Would 365 Days be popular at any time, because people like watching morally bereft movies about hot people having kinky sex? All three are probably true.
One thing is for certain: There will be 365 more days. The movie is based on the first book in a trilogy by Polish author Blanka Lipińska, and a sequel is already in the works, though it’s been postponed by the pandemic, according to star Sieklucka. And the success of 365 Days likely means we will start to see more English-language Eastern European productions on Netflix, which has been a growing mini-trend on the service this year, with the groundwork laid by the Polish Bill Pullman-starring espionage thriller The Coldest Game — also distributed by Next Film, the Polish distributor behind 365 Days — and the Hungarian film Curtiz, a biopic about Casablanca director Michael Curtiz. 365 Days is going to have an impact, whether we like it or not.
365 Days is available to stream on Netflix.