Review: 'Stateless' offers odd perspective on the tragic plight of refugees

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

“Stateless” undoubtedly has its heart in the right place. And dramatically it’s pretty sturdy stuff. 

But man, is it tone-deaf, and the timing of its release makes that deafness all the more glaring. 

This is a six-part series about the abuses inherent in Australia’s system of dealing with refugees. And it certainly reflects abuses and frustrations with similar refugee camps and systems around the world. 

But only one of the four lead characters is playing a refugee. The other three are white folks who’ve become part of an awful system. 

Yvonne Strahovski and Jai Courtney in "Stateless" on Netflix.

A series about how terrible the refugee system is told through the eyes of white folks is just a bit bizarre, especially as tens of thousands of people around the world are marching calling for racial equality. I mean, yeesh. 

The chief white folks here would be Clare (Asher Keddie), a bureaucrat put in charge of a remote and dusty refugee detention center; Sandford (Jai Courtney) a guard at the center who hates what he sees but enjoys the middle-class status his job offers; and Sofie (Yvonne Strahovski from “The Handmaid’s Tale”), a beautiful blonde Australian having a mental breakdown and pretending to be German after having her brain scrambled by a cult. 

The main refugee followed is Ameer (Fayssal Bazzi) and if anybody’s entitled to a breakdown it’s him. He flees Afghanistan with his wife and two daughters, is robbed by crooked smugglers, and when he finally makes it to Australia’s promised land he gets thrown into what is essentially a prison in the middle of nowhere. 

The system is a mess, no doubt, fully awful, unfair and brutal. And “Stateless” approaches this head-on. It just would have been nice to reflect more on those who are abused than the white folk who cage them in. Again, yeesh.