If you haven’t already binge-watched Umbre, the dark, intense, must-watch drama from Romania, now you can, without a streaming subscription.
Whether intentionally or not, Hulu has replaced the Australian drama Small Time Gangster with Umbre, the former’s Romanian remake by HBO Europe, which premiered in the US last November on Acorn TV.
The character-driven Umbre stars the award-winning Serban Pavlu (Toata lumea din familia noastra), who gives a riveting performance as Relu Oncescu, a man living a double life. To most people he’s a simple family man and taxi driver in Bucharest; to members of the criminal underworld, he’s a torpedo, hired to collect the money owed to mob boss Căpitanu’ (Doru Ana, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu).
Relu’s been doing double family duty for years, with neither being the wiser about the other. But it’s starting to wear thin. He’s not getting any younger, and his wife, Gina (Maria Obretin, Bucharest Non Stop), is growing unhappier and more pissed off by the day that he’s rarely ever home. Compounding everything is the burgeoning relationship between his teenage daughter and Căpitanu’’s equally young, heir-to-his-criminal-empire son.
So perhaps it was fate that stepped in, when one of Căpitanu’’s debtors refuses to pay up and dies by accident, leaving Relu on the hook for the dough the dude owed. What’s more, others of Relu’s collecting jobs don’t go swimmingly, either, and the boss’ right-hand woman, Nico (Andreea Vasile, Why Me?), begins to suspect there’s more going on than what Relu’s been telling her and Căpitanu’. Meanwhile, Relu’s family life is falling apart.
Watching all of this play out is Relu’s longtime friend and neighbor, Nea Puiu’ (Stefan Velniciuc, What War May Bring), the man who introduced Relu to the criminal side of life. In a case of “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” Nea Puiu’ pulls off a scheme to extricate Relu from his increasingly difficult situation, only to make it worse.
Forced to come clean about both families, and with his life on the verge of being extinguished, Relu must think quickly to save himself and his family.
Then fate steps in again…
While Umbre, which translates into English as Shadows, includes crime elements, it isn’t a crime drama. Rather, it’s the intriguing story of one man caught between the worlds of good and bad, right and wrong, truth and lies, and the consequences of his actions in both.
Intended for mature audiences, Umbre is now streaming for free (with ads) on Hulu.