'Black Island' Is The Netflix Thriller You Did Not Know You Needed

Black Island Schwarze Insel Helena Jung Alice Dwyer Netflix

Right off the bat, “Black Island” (originally titled “Schwarze Insel”) does not mess around. Viewers know someone is wreaking havoc on a brooding island, and they know who that someone is. The question that embroils the “e” thriller is not a question of “who” but “why,” and that is what helps separate this twisty flick apart.

“Black Island” opens with the closely ensuing tragedies that befall high school student Jonas (Philip Froissant). Like a certain other Jonas (“Dark”), “Black Island,” Jonas is having a rough go of it as one personal tragedy after another rips away his loved ones. He is soon left in the care of his cantankerous grandfather, which means Jonas’ life is not a happy one. A cloud looms largely over his head.

What Jonas does not realize is that the cloud darkening his life is actually a living, breathing person. Enter the high school’s new German teacher, Helena Jung (Alice Dwyer). Little does Jonas know that the woman he soon becomes entranced with is the reason for his deepest, darkest miseries. Jonas’ best friend, Nina (Mercedes Mรผller), who harbors a not-so-secret crush on Jonas, is suspicious.

The idea of the teen/teacher romance concerns Nina enough, and soon a war-of-wills between her and the ruthless Helena begins to sizzle. It is here and throughout that “Black Island” ticks off many of the boxes that have come to define “e” thrillers. As yours truly has said time and again, viewers need more of them, and thankfully Nicole Kidman agrees. Until Kidman can deliver on what Amazon Studios’ boss, Jennifer Salke, teased to THR saying:

“I’m working with Nicole Kidman on this slate of sexy, date-night movies that no one’s making anymore, like No Way Out or Cruel Intentions. Those kind of, “I need to stay home and just drink wine with my girlfriend, or my boyfriend, husband, and watch this.” This is really Nicole’s thing. When I met with her my second week in the job, we made the first-look deal out of this lunch. She was like, “Where are the hot, sexy movies?” We had a meeting of the minds on it, and I’m like, “Let’s just get those movies directly, where we could release over the summer.” Every Saturday night, one of those comes out, and then you create some bingeability and a marketing story behind it.”

Thankfully, viewers can depend on Netflix to deliver. During the pandemic, Netflix has worked overtime to bring viewers the sultry treats they have been desperately needing. With Amazon hoping to enter the fray via Nicole Kidman (arguably the queen of the genre), it is interesting that Netflix has provided yet another enviable entry to its library with “Black Island.” It is a compelling and downright mysterious one.

I will admit it. While watching, I did not correctly guess what Helena’s motives are for her crime spree. Managing to keep its mystery unsolved, “Black Island” unwinds with a slow-boil beginning before erupting in the second half. It is a standout film overall. One that fans and non-fans of the genre will enjoy. As long as you yearn for a good mystery, “Black Island” will more than scratch your itch.

It is reminiscent of the highly underseen French thriller “UV,” which also deals with a stranger mysteriously invading a family’s life. Likewise, the cast of “Black Island” is believable, with Philip Froissant providing pathos to Jonas that undermines the sense of him being a thoughtless teen. While Froissant provides the still waters that anchor “Black Island,” it is Alice Dwyer who electrifies it.

Dwyer gives every other movie seductress a run for their money as the quietly sinister Helena. Her ability to make Helena seem innocuous in one breath, and alarmingly menacing in the next, is a rare gift. Alice Dwyer provides the hurricane that is Helena by being both the gale-force winds and the eye of the storm. Her performance is brilliantly chilling.

Offering the counterpoint to Alice Dwyer’s Helena is Mercedes Mรผller (“Oktoberfest: Blood and Blood”), who provides a girl-next-door charm with street smarts, as Nina. The presence of Mรผller’s character provides another layer that helps power “Black Island” in a unique fashion. Overall, director and co-writer Miguel Alexandre provides enough variances for “Black Island” to do as its title suggests: stand-alone.

“Black Island” is currently streaming on Netflix alongside a lot of other great thrillers. Eclectic Pop suggests another tale of German suspense with “Kidnapping Stella” and the Spanish knockout “The Occupant” if you are looking for more thrills and chills. As of August 2021, both films are streaming on the popular platform.