Web series: America Ferrera plays another ugly role in Christine

She may have been Ugly Betty herself, but America Ferrera’s character in Christine is better suited for that title. The web series stars Ferrera as a woman on a series of speed dates of increasingly dramatic awkwardness, thanks to Ferrera’s wonderful acting and judgmental character. Also check out short film Burnout, a film that follows real paramedics onto the scene to rescue injured patients. For a full review of both of these, read on:

Web Series: Christine: Whether she’s playing a fashion magazine writer or a supermarket employee, America Ferrera has assumed many different acting identities. The actress again proves she can balance many different personalities in Christine, a web series created by YouTube scripted drama channel WIGS. Written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia, the show’s simple premise follows a woman named Christine, played by Ferrera, as she attends a night of speed dating, and the secrets she keeps that unravel as the night goes on. The show’s strength is its subtlety; as each date introduces themselves, we gain multiple layers into their character, as well as Christine’s. The end result is a fascinating study of the central character and the pain and hope that she carries with her.

The 12-episode series focuses on a new date each episode. It’s a truly alarming portrayal of speed dating; just about everything that can go wrong during speed dating, does go wrong. We meet people like Ron; a journalist who can’t seem to give an honest interview, but we also meet people like Daniel; an honest, rock-climbing diabetic who has an instant connection with Christine. Each suitor seems to have his own secret Christine quickly picks up on. When at first it seems like Christine may just be on an unlucky streak of dates, it quickly turns out she’s judgmental and picky when it comes to men, and trying to mask insecurities of her own. As each episode goes by, she seems to change her own story; in the first episode she says she’s working on getting her teaching MA, and a few episodes later she’s already an accomplished teacher. The small details in Garcia’s writing are what truly tell the story.

Most of the men are unlikeable and flawed, though none as much as Christine. It’s thanks to an all around great cast and an especially standout performance from Ferrera that makes this show about flawed people compulsively watchable. Ferrera wears Christine’s insecurities openly and humanely. Even though her character does and says some ugly things, Ferrera’s line delivery shows it’s coming from a place the character is not proud of and is trying to make better. The acting from each of the dates is solid as well; most are only given 8 minutes an episode, but are able to create well-rounded characters with good and bad qualities in such a short amount of time.

The show is an exploration of the darkness that can sometimes influence human interaction, set in a realistic and modern setting. The characters in the show are trying to make a good first impression and mask the reasons why they are at speed dating in the first place (though, maybe it makes speed dating look just a little too negative. Or a lot). Garcia’s writing is clever enough that just when you think you’re beginning to understand Christine, something new happens that completely shifts your perception of her. That, and Ferrera’s performance, make this web series worthy of a second date.

Short film: Burnout: Miguel Lopez Valdivia directs Burnout, a short film following a real life emergency response paramedic and how he copes with the high stress of his career. The video shows some graphic material, and begins with a viewer discretion advisory. Starting in the back of an ambulance, the paramedic named Alejandro Ezquerra Osorio, talks about the sensation called “burnout” – the weariness people who work in high-stress situations experience. This is juxtaposed to the image of many paramedics rushing around an ambulance, aiding an unseen patient who apparently injured a limb. “The human treatment, everything that englobes the medical attention, is what makes you stay,” Osorio says. While tough viewing, the video highlights everyday heroes doing vitally important jobs.

Valdivia follows the paramedics to many different accidents, such as someone laying in the sidewalk after being hit by a car and the site of a shooting where at least three people were hit. The material is raw and could be scary, and director Valdivia deserves praise for having the courage to be there to film it and show it. Still, despite the dangerous situations, Osorio believes his job can even be fun thanks to the adrenaline he receives. Still, he has to hold the patients he treats at a distance. “I usually see the patient on the street, laying, but I never see his face directly,” Osorio says.

Raw and powerfully honest, Burnout tackles difficult subjects that can occupy people like Osorio’s everyday lives. Vldivia’s film is one that deserves to be seen by a wide audience.