What is Transatlantic about? Netflix series explained

netflix transatlanticNetflix

Transatlantic, a new World War II drama series based on an inspirational true story, has eased its way into Netflix’s top 10 chart – here’s what it’s about, who’s in the cast, and if it’s worth watching. 

Netflix is behind a whole host of war content, having introduced TV shows and movies including (deep breath): War Sailor, Da 5 Bloods, Outlaw King, War Machine, Narvik, Beasts of No Nation, The Siege of Jadotville, Sand Castle, and Mosul.

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Transatlantic has just joined the ranks as the latest property within the category, delivering a compelling true story and a solid cast and crew to boot. 

Set in 1940 to 1941 and shot entirely on location in Marseille, France, the seven-part limited series is based on Julie Orringer’s novel The Flight Portfolio. With all episodes now available to stream, here’s everything you need to know about Transatlantic and if it’s worth watching.

What is Transatlantic about?

Transatlantic and the book it’s based on centers on the real-life case of a heroic rescue team who helped thousands of refugees escape Nazi-occupied France.

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You can watch the trailer below:

The official synopsis reads: “Marseille 1940-1941.Transatlantic is inspired by the true story of Varian Fry, Mary Jayne Gold and the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC). 

“Risking their lives to help more than 2000 refugees escape occupied France, including many artists on the Nazis’ most-wanted list, an international gang of young superheroes and their famous charges occupy a villa at the edge of the city, where the threat of mortal danger gives way to unexpected collaborations and intense love affairs.”

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Among those saved by the ERC were some of Europe’s top artists and intellectuals including Andre Breton, Hannah Arendt, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, and Marc Chagall, a group that helped to “transform the United States into the world’s cultural capital” after the war. 

For the show’s co-creator Anna Winger, this story is particularly close to her heart. “When I was growing up in the United States, my parents were professors,” she explained. “Many of their colleagues and friends had come over as refugees during WWII. 

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“Their deeply affecting stories of getting out of Europe were the stuff of local legend – some with the Kindertransport, some via Shanghai, others via Japan – and a few were helped by Varian Fry. Two had even worked with him in Marseille.”

Recent world events such as the influx of refugees from Syria and Afghanistan to Germany in 2015 touched the Berlin resident, and inspired her to tell the tale with a fresh perspective.

“Then the war started in Ukraine during our second week of production,” she continued. “Sadly and unexpectedly, we ended up making Transatlantic while a new European war – and a new refugee crisis – was happening in real time. This gave fresh urgency to the project and a strong sense of purpose to all of us involved.”

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Transatlantic cast: Who’s in it?

Netflix’s Transatlantic cast includes:

  • Gillian Jacobs as Mary Jayne Gold
  • Cory Michael Smith as Varian Fry
  • Lucas Englander as Albert Hirschman
  • Ralph Amoussou as Paul Kandjo
  • Gregory Montel as Philippe Frot
  • Deleila Piasko as Lisa Fittko
  • Amit Rahav as Thomas Lovegrove
  • Corey Stoll as Graham Patterson

Mary Jayne Gold was an heiress from Chicago who used her trust fund for good – by bankrolling the ERC. This was something Jacobs wanted to get across when portraying the historical figure, telling The Steve Varley Show that the trait she hoped to convey the most was “her desire to help.” 

The Love star added: “I think it’s both true to the real woman and the version of her that exists in the show. Both of our characters [Mary Jayne Gold and Varian Fry] as Americans in 1940, before the US had entered the war, had the ability to leave at any moment… And she chose to stay for as long as she could and help, and I think that that is a remarkable thing.”

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Is Transatlantic worth watching?

Transatlantic has debuted to some positive reviews, with the show currently rated at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer and 84% on its Audience Score.

The New York Times wrote: “The show captures not only the life-or-death seriousness of Fry’s mission to save refugees of another war, but also something of the louche, living-on-the-edge drama of a city that has always been a crossroads.”

Elsewhere, The Spool described the Netflix show as “a thrilling, bittersweet tale of love and war,” while The Guardian added the “intriguing new drama” to its list of “seven best shows to stream this week.”

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Not all of the reviews are positive, however, with The Hollywood Reporter saying Transatlantic is a “glossy but superficial” portrayal of the ERC story. 

If you want to make your own mind up, Transatlantic is available to stream on Netflix now. You can check out our other TV hubs below:

Invincible Season 2 | The Last of Us Season 2The Boys Season 4 | Stranger Things Season 5 | Succession Season 4 | Ted Lasso Season 3 | The Witcher Season 3 | Severance Season 2 | Black Mirror Season 6 | Barry Season 4

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