Expats Movie Review: A Tapestry of Grief, Friendship, and Redemption

The 2016 novel The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee served as the inspiration for Lulu Wang’s planned American drama television series Expats, which will debut on Amazon Prime Video on January 26, 2024. “The lively lives of a close-knit expatriate community: where affluence is celebrated, friendships are intense but willingly transient, and personal lives, deaths, and marriages are played out publicly—then retold with glee” is what Expats focuses on. Expats aim to uplift and emotionally devastate their viewers.

Expats Movie Review

Expats Movie Review

Leading the all-female writers’ room is Lulu Wang from The Farewell, who crafts an impactful smash in Expats. Finally, Nicole Kidman, who is, unsurprisingly, a force to be reckoned with, is the show’s leader. Kidman is undoubtedly the main attraction, but she isn’t the only marvel. Her co-stars Ji-young Yoo and Sarayu Blue are equally potent, contributing to the telling of a moving tale of loss, grief, and the difficulty of moving on. There are moments when the program borders on self-indulgence, particularly because of its opulent pacing and the way it uses a terrible event in the lives of its primary trio as a dramatic device.

Thankfully, Expats avoids the anticipated moments of melodrama by firmly establishing its grounding in an unwavering truth, regardless of how depressing, frightening, or sublime. It’s also satisfying to witness Wang’s fearless creativity as an artist who embraces diversity and doesn’t hesitate to take chances. The show’s powerful, 97-minute penultimate episode effectively functions as an independent film on its own, and she does a remarkable job of capturing Hong Kong, with some especially exquisite camerawork in the premiere.

Hilary’s Cultural Complexity Adds Depth to the Narrative

Expats movie review

The main idea of Expatriates is reminiscent of the critically acclaimed book The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee, which it is based on. Three American expats are the focus of the show, which explores how they deal with tragedy in their close-knit, fast-paced Hong Kong environment. Margaret (Nicole Kidman), a mother of three, leaves her employment in the United States to go abroad to follow her husband’s new career opportunity. After graduating from Columbia, Mercy (Yoo), a rebellious 24-year-old Korean, is hoping for a new beginning. As she questions whether she wants a kid, an aspirational Hilary (Blue) experiences marital conflict.

However, a few creative decisions also set Expats apart from the book. The first of these is the choice to make the character Hilary, also known as Harpreet Singh, an Indian. This gives the plot of Hilary and expats in general a more nuanced perspective. In the fourth episode, for example, British theater star Sudha Bhuchar makes a brilliant cameo as Hilary’s mother. The two converse about Hilary’s serious upbringing. Sincerity and hurt permeate their discussion, and as the performers deftly switch between Punjabi and English, the drama intensifies.

Wang’s Crew Crafts an Unforgettable Narrative

Expats movie review

The excellent Filipino supporting cast members who portray the wealthy protagonists’ domestic workers, such as Ruby Ruiz, and Amelyn Pardenilla, are also given more attention. These personalities are not marginalized by expats. Rather, the portrayal of their daily life is insightful and includes conversations in Tagalog that contribute to the immersive experience. Wang and her crew manage to accomplish this without giving the impression that the program is hurried or overdone while still skillfully weaving the stories of its characters together to create an unstoppable story.

Because the three main characters’ personalities and origins are given distinct attention in the narrative, viewers are better able to relate to each of the women. Expats look at the difficult process of coping with inevitable feelings of loss, abandonment, guilt, and loneliness via them. When Mercy, who is caring for Margaret’s youngest kid, loses him in a busy night market, it is a heartbreaking and nearly apocalyptic incident that unites them. Living in the same high-rise building as Hilary, Margaret, and David’s friendship is irreversibly damaged by the events that caused Hilary’s husband, David (Jack Huston), to be momentarily considered a suspect.


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Nicole Kidman’s Emotional Depths

Expats movie review

Kidman’s portrayal of a bereaved mother is heartbreaking; she conveys her pain via all of her senses, but most importantly, through her expressions. It’s hard to take your eyes off her. Kidman’s intensity is matched by Blue and Yoo, making them a formidable combination. Expats painstakingly explores through these performances what it’s like to make errors, accept them as part of life, and look forward to the future despite pain and uncertainty. It’s a moving drama about being a person.

Along with these themes, the program also includes arcs concerning racism, socioeconomic divides, and parenthood without ever feeling like an afterthought. A fantastic group of people contributed to the production, including Brian Tee who plays Clarke, Margaret’s loving partner. Ultimately, Expats is a contemplation of femininity and the accompanying demands made on women by partners, parents, kids, society, and even themselves. Expats is an intensely poignant tale, though not always pleasant to witness. But Wang has given us a really powerful show—the kind that stays with you long after the last credits have rolled.


“Expats” seamlessly weaves these themes into the narrative, never feeling like an afterthought. The show’s contemplation of femininity delves into the demands placed on women by various facets of life. The intensely poignant tale, while not always pleasant, leaves a lasting impact, making “Expats” a powerful and unforgettable viewing experience.

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