WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
An engaged couple travels the world for a year to explore marriage customs in diverse cultures. Will the journey bring them closer or tear them apart?
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
"What did I just watch?!"
That was my first thought after consuming Extreme Engagement in only two days.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this unexpected gem of a docu-series.
Not only is it Australia’s first unscripted original series for Netflix, but it is also beautifully filmed and produced by the starring couple's production company, Wildman Films.
Extreme Engagement, starring Tim Noonan and PJ Madam, seamlessly integrates all the elements of documentary and reality TV in a refreshing and completely new way.
At the start of the series Tim, an award-winning filmmaker, and PJ, a TV journalist, reveals that they have been engaged for roughly four years but have only spent about four months of those years together. Because of this, they decided to embark on a year-long adventure during which they travel around the world to explore and learn about eight different marriage customs in diverse cultures, in the hopes that along the way, they will find themselves as well as find out if they do belong together.
While this year-long adventure sounds like a fun baecation, viewers will quickly see that it is not all sunshine and rainbows. It is raw, it questions the definition of commitment, and it illustrates vulnerability in a sometimes uncomfortable yet eye-opening way.
I say uncomfortable because granted at the end of the day the series follows two people who have a unique story and are dealing with their own problems individually and as a couple, but a lot of the emotions and issues they deal with onscreen brought up the very same emotions and issues I deal with myself and in my relationship.
Commitment is a word people are so convinced they know the meaning of, thanks to society, but after watching Extreme Engagement, the word means something so completely different to me. The final episode of this series showed me what true commitment might look like.
To be vulnerable is not easy, and to do it wholeheartedly in front of a camera knowing millions will be watching seems impossible, but this is what Tim and PJ have done, and I commend them for it. Thinking just of how vulnerable they are, reminded me of something Brené Brown said in her Netflix special, The Call to Courage – “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
While no one knows more about what it means to be vulnerable like Brené does, Tim and PJ have illustrated this in a very relatable way; they happen to be doing it while travelling the world and engaging in different and extreme cultural experiences.
While on the topic of cultural experiences, it would be utterly irresponsible of me not to discuss the cultural issue some viewers may have. After watching the first episode in which Tim and PJ visit a tribe in Cameroon, who claim to have the world’s happiest marriages, I had some reservations because let’s face it – here are two white people participating in cultural rituals they know nothing about. But for me, the difference is that Tim and PJ are not setting out to exploit these cultures but rather celebrate them and learn from them. Conforming to cultural traditions that are completely foreign to you is difficult and by no means do Tim and PJ make it look easy, but the respect they have for these people and, on the other end, the joy the tribes have in welcoming Tim and PJ is amazing and so enjoyable to watch. Having watched all eight episodes, I have learned so much about different cultures I knew nothing about, and I have been exposed to their well-preserved and beautiful surroundings – that’s what makes this show not only emotional but extremely educational and interesting.
While the very title of Extreme Engagement suggests the content is merely directed at people who are planning on getting engaged or who are already engaged, don’t be fooled. There is something for everyone to relate to. Whether you are looking for an adventurous travel piece to sink into, bearing in mind that Tim is no David Attenborough, but he is a damn good cameraman, to say the least, the locations captured in Extreme Engagement are breath-taking and are showcased beautifully. Or if you’re more of a reality TV junky, the realness of Tim and PJ’s road to discovering their compatibility while dealing with demons from their past will evoke laughter, tears, WTF moments and have you saying, "same!" more than once.
Whether you’re married, engaged, single, or not even looking for a partner, Extreme Engagement will make you laugh, cry and reflect. Tim and PJ will take you on a journey of self-discovery, vulnerability and perhaps even motivate you to ask the tough questions about yourself, even if you might not like the answers.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: