‘Expats’ review round-up: Nicole Kidman is ‘mesmerizing’ in Prime Video’s new limited series

On January 26, 2024, Prime Video released “Expats,” a limited series starring Oscar winner Nicole Kidman as an American living in Hong Kong. The show was created and directed by BAFTA nominee Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”) and takes a look at the personal and professional lives of a tight-knit group of expatriates living overseas. The ensemble cast includes Ji-young Yoo, Jack Huston, Sarayu Blue and Brian Tee

The series has earned predominantly positive reviews from critics, holding fresh at 71% on Rotten Tomatoes. Read our full review round-up below. 

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Anna van Praagh of London Evening Standard writes, “Nicole Kidman is mesmerising, the music by Alex Weston is pitch perfect and Lulu Wang has now made her mark as a director of note. This is a triumph.” Concluding, “Based on Janice Y. K. Lee’s 2016 novel ‘The Expatriates’, the six-episode limited series takes place during the height of the city’s 2014 Umbrella protest Movement, and the lifestyles of wealthy, detached expatriates are set in harsh juxtaposition to those of their myriad domestic servants.”

Ross Bonaime of Collider praises the series, stating, “’Kidman does a good job of showing how becoming a part of a different culture for an extended period of time changes a longtime visitor. We see she’s confused by the customs at times, but still makes her and her family feel like part of this other land.” Adding, “Outside of the episodes written by Wang, some of the best moments are when characters have simple heart-to-hearts with each other, such as Margaret and Clarke trapped in a room together, trying to figure out what’s best for their family going forward, or Hilary and David finding common ground in their relationship. These moments work beautifully in their simplicity, rather than trying to make a show of emotional development. But also, the culture of Hong Kong shows that ‘Expats’ needs to expand more consistently beyond its three leads to give us a better sense of this city.”

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Kristen Baldwin of Entertainment Weekly was less impressed, stating, “Based on Janice Y. K. Lee’s novel ‘The Expatriates,’ ‘Expats’ is a grand-looking character study that is meditative to the point of soporific, despite a spectacular performance by costar Sarayu Blue.” Baldwin continues, “We’re also offered a too-brief glimpse inside the lives of the domestic workers. Puri (Amelyn Pardenilla), Hilary’s housekeeper, joins her friends for a raucous round of bingo and gossip in the city’s Statue Square Park, and returns home to an ugly fight between her employers. She spends the rest of the night patiently allowing a tipsy Hilary to give her a makeover and sipping wine because her boss doesn’t want to drink alone. It’s the show’s most affecting depiction of the ill-defined relationship between the upper class and those whose job it is to meet their needs — domestic or otherwise. I wanted more.”

Laura Babiak of Observer notes, “There is plenty to appreciate about ‘Expats’ and how it captures complexities. The loss of Gus isn’t as cut and dry as the first episode makes it seem, with one of Margaret’s other children drawing a picture of his brother standing with Jesus creating a slew of questions. Gus is gone, yes, but not necessarily dead—the boy is missing, maybe kidnapped, maybe worse, but no one knows for sure. That lack of a resolution haunts Margaret and Clarke in different ways, with the former obsessed with finding him and the latter coming to the conclusion that it may be better to move on for the sake of their remaining kids. That moral conundrum is rich, and Kidman and Tee mine it for all it’s worth. It’s hardly a mystery to be solved and there’s no culprit to be caught, and the drama at the heart of the show benefits.”

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