‘We Were the Lucky Ones’ Review: A Story of Family and Survival

‘We Were the Lucky Ones’ Review: A Story of Family and Survival
Courtesy of Hulu

It’s difficult to truly comprehend and grapple with the impact of the Holocaust, which sought to and unfortunately succeeded in wiping out the Jewish population of much of Europe. We Were the Lucky Ones, a limited series based on the book of the same name by Georgia Hunter, charts the journey of one family that was separated and fought hard to be reunited despite seemingly insurmountable odds. In its ambitious storytelling, this series effectively captures the scope of this harrowing time and the determination of those who had no idea what was to come.

The Kurcs are a Jewish family in Poland living comfortably and peacefully before World War II. With the threat of Nazi invasion and rising antisemitism at home, they find themselves scattered as each member of the family pursues a different chance at survival. Siblings Addy (Logan Lerman), Halina (Joey King), Mila (Hadas Yaron), Genek (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), and Jakob (Amit Rahav) assess the various factors compelling them to stay and the unignorable warning sings pressuring them to leave, while Nechuma (Robin Weigert) and Sol (Lior Ashkenazi) consider the irreversibility of abandoning their family home.

We Were the Lucky Ones
We Were the Lucky Ones — “Radom” – Episode 101 — The Kurc family celebrates Passover in Radom, Poland. One year later, the onset of World War II forces a devastating separation. Nechuma (Robin Weigert), Halina (Joey King), Mila (Hadas Yaron), Selim (Michael Aloni), Herta (Moran Rosenblatt), Genek (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) and Jakob (Amit Rahav), shown. (Photo by: Vlad Cioplea/Hulu)

Hunter did an exhaustive amount of research to write this book, and showrunner Erica Lipez applies a similar commitment to authenticity in translating this story to the small screen. Its characters all go in separate directions across the globe, and, in just eight episodes, the series follows their various journeys in impressive detail. There are moments at which sheer luck allows them to survive, and others in which they are able to avoid disaster thanks to clever quick thinking that miraculously doesn’t result in their immediate death.

Nearly eighty years after the end of World War II, this show serves as a stark and important reminder of the ease with which hatred can spread and people can be cast as others in a way that makes them seem less than human. Some of the most potent and lingering scenes find members of the Kurc family being talked down to and lambasted because of their religious identity, often uttered in a way that reveals no shame on the part of the speaker, perfectly content to convey these sentiments that any moral and compassionate person would find horrific and despicable.

We Were the Lucky Ones
We Were the Lucky Ones — “Lvov” – Episode 102 — Halina and Bella start their passage to Lvov. Sol, Nechuma, and Mila must find a new home in German-occupied Radom. Addy is conscripted into a Polish unit of the French army. Halina (Joey King) and Sol (Lior Ashkenazi), shown. (Photo by: Vlad Cioplea/Hulu)

We Were the Lucky Ones boasts a strong and talented cast, populated by a combination of American, British, and Israeli actors. Lerman transitions from another Holocaust-centric series, Hunters, to a gentler role as Addy, who is capable of great love and spirit that is threatened by the dismal nature of his circumstances. King is particularly memorable as Halina, who takes the approach of playing a role to avoid her fate, boldly pretending not to be Jewish to hide in plain sight. Yaron and Rahav, best known for Fill the Void and Unorthodox, instill their characters with a sincere passion, while Weigert and Ashkenazi inhabit their parental roles with a palpable love for those around them.

Like many of its other series, Hulu is releasing this show by dropping the first three episodes all at once, with one new episode available weekly after that. It’s a smart strategy, since the concept of watching this show in succession might be too dizzying for some audiences given just how much it covers and contains. Yet that’s also the point of it, to show the lengths that people who were able to went to try to find survival in the wake of their near-extermination. Its technical and visual elements match the height of its storytelling, which serves to pass down the resilience of one tight-knit family to future generations.

Grade: B+

Check out more of Abe Friedtanzer’s articles.

The first three episodes of We Were the Lucky Ones premiere Thursday, March 28th on Hulu. New episodes debut weekly on Thursdays through the series finale on May 2nd.

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