OTT Review: Newton's Cradle

A 30-episode Egyptian series that bursts at the seams with emotional roller coasters and hyper drama — but comes up trumps (and how!), putting in place a ride that’s (totally) worth bingeing on


Sushmita Bose

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Published: Tue 21 Dec 2021, 11:09 PM

The term ‘Newton’s Cradle’ is derived from the laws of physics; it means “an ornamental puzzle consisting of a frame in which five metal balls are suspended in such a way that when one is moved it sets all the others in motion in turn”. In the series, it’s a metaphor of how life is a constant flow, and finally comes a full circle.

Hana (played gloriously by Mona Zaki) and Hazem (a brilliant Mohamed Mamdouh) are a couple based in Cairo; they seem to be happily married but it’s evident that Hana suffers from a lack of confidence, a trait that Hazem — in his own sweet, misguided way — amplifies. They run an apiary together, and when she gets pregnant, they decide — on a whim — to have the child in the US (Hana is supposed to travel there as part of a government contingent to an agri conference) so that he/she is born an American citizen. The plan is: Hana will not return home, and Hazem will liquidate their savings and join her in a while. But when the two get “separated” with Hazem unable to get a visa, Hana sticks to the original plan because she’s desperate to “prove” herself. As she embarks on a dangerous journey in Los Angeles, and Hazem — who’s now living in a haze of insecurities, and teetering emotionally — is left behind to fight demons inside his head.

In many ways, snatches of Newton’s Cradle may also be interpreted as a commentary on how people in the ‘developing world’, however happy they may be, are eager to jump on to the bandwagon of the Great American Dream, not realising it may not actually be worth their while. And, of course, the rich tapestry of the art direction immediately makes you wonder why anyone would want to leave the warmth and the colours of Egypt and become illegal in a hostile foreign land just because there’s a convenient yarn being spun.

The acting, by every single actor, is perhaps Newton’s Cradle’s sucker punch. Every character is flawed — and unapologetically so. As the series devolves, it becomes a dialectical development for all of them, and much like the metaphor, they come a full circle. Between the greyest of the two characters — Badr and Moaness, played superlatively by Sayed Ragab and Mohamed Farag — you struggle to decide whether they should be classified as “good” or “bad”, that’s how finely delineated the characterisations are.

The second feather in the cap would be how the big picture is interconnected to elements that stitch the storyline together. For example, there is a vertical that unfolds on bee-keeping and the honey-making process. It’s so cleverly (and imaginatively) integrated into the plot that even if you are least interested in the business of apiary, you will emerge much better “educated” on the subject. There are also probing insights into Muslim civil law — which are absolutely fascinating: subjects like divorce, women’s rights, legality vs religion and so on.

This is hyper drama at its best: a heady mix of romance, social norms, relationships, family ties, angst and rebellion, sweeping elements of suspense and edge-of-the-seat, upending twists. Each episode begins with a flashpoint — often, it’s a flashback; at times, it’s a peek into the future — and then dives back into where it ended in the previous episode, which is usually a cliffhanger.

At the end of 30 episodes, I realised I’d spent almost 24 hours watching Newton’s Cradle. But I couldn’t have found a better way to spend a day in my life.

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