We Were the Lucky Ones
GenreDrama
Based onWe Were The Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
Developed byErica Lipez
ShowrunnerErica Lipez
Directed byThomas Kail
Starring
Theme music composerRachel Portman
Jon Ehrlich
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes8
Production
Executive producers
Production companies
Original release
NetworkHulu
ReleaseMarch 28 (2024-03-28) –
May 2, 2024 (2024-05-02)

We Were The Lucky Ones is an American historical drama miniseries developed by Erica Lipez for Hulu that premiered on March 28, 2024.[1] It is an adaptation of the 2017 book of the same name by Georgia Hunter, inspired by the story of her own family.[2]

It depicts the Holocaust from the perspective of the Kurc family, Polish Jews. The story centers on siblings played by Joey King, Logan Lerman, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Amit Rahav and Hadas Yaron and their parents, played by Lior Ashkenazi and Robin Weigert.

Plot summary

Prior to World War II, the Kurcs, a Polish Jewish family, lived successful and relatively peaceful lives in Radom. Their success protected them from some of the virulent anti-semitism in the country. Their protection does not last as Hitler's persecution of European Jewry intensified. Some members of the family find themselves in hiding and in concentration camps. Other members of the family managed to escape to France, Brazil, West Africa and Russia. Once the war ends, survivors from the family attempt to discover any living relatives and reunite.[3][1]

Cast

Episodes

No.Title [4]Directed byTeleplay by [5]Original release date [6]
1"Radom"Thomas KailErica LipezMarch 28, 2024 (2024-03-28)
2"Lvov"Amit GuptaErica LipezMarch 28, 2024 (2024-03-28)

It’s November 1939 and Halina and Bella prepare to leave Poland. On their journey, they bribe a German guard, who allows the two women to pass safely through the first checkpoint. Meanwhile, in Poland, the Kurcs (along with many others) are evicted from their home. Halina and Bella are stopped and held at gunpoint at another checkpoint and are forced to return to Radom. Instead, they decide to try to cross into the USSR on foot. They end up surrendering to soldiers pursuing them and are taken to a Soviet military camp. In Poland, Sol is able to secure a home for his family through his connections. In France, Addy forges paperwork he intends to use to leave Europe. After being released by the Soviets, Halina and Bella are reunited with Adam and Jakob in Lvov, Poland. Bella and Jakob get married. Halina asks Adam to help her get involved doing something useful.

October 1940 in France, Addy tries to find a way out of Europe. In the Soviet Union, Genek is discovered as a Polish citizen and is arrested.
3"Siberia"Amit GuptaAdam MilchMarch 28, 2024 (2024-03-28)

A pregnant Herta goes with Genek as he is taken. They are loaded onto a train and spend weeks in deplorable conditions. Meanwhile, Addy has secured passage on the Alsina, one of the last refugee ships leaving France and headed to Brazil. Working to help coordinate entertainment for the guests, Addy meets a woman named Eliska and her mother. Addy and Eliska spend time together and eventually realize their ship is not headed to Brazil. By December 1940, Halina is working in a lab where she uses her resources to help the underground. Herta and Genek arrive in Siberia and are forced to work in a labor camp.

In March 1941, the Alsina is forced to dock in Senegal. Addy and Eliska sleep together. In Siberia, Herta goes into labor. Despite Herta’s protests, Genek pleads with the guards for time off so Herta can take care of the baby but is denied. Herta gives birth to a son. The passengers on the Alsina are forced off the ship. Halina is taken.
4"Casablanca"Neasa HardimanAnya MeksinApril 4, 2024 (2024-04-04)
In June 1941, Halina is being used as a living blood donor. Mila’s boss is arrested so she can no longer take Felicia to work. Unable to leave Felicia home alone, the Kurcs smuggle Felicia out of the ghetto with the help of Isaac. Adam is needed in Warsaw and even though Halina is conflicted, she tells him to go. In Senegal, Addy has been forced to work in a labor camp. He escapes the camp and finds Eliska and her mother to convince them to leave. Addy proposes to Eliska and she says yes. Felicia is returned to the Kurcs because she “looks too Jewish.” Violence begins to escalate in Lvov so Halina, Jakob and Bella go into hiding. Mila and Felicia secure transport to Palestine but instead, are taken to a field and forced to dig for hours. Mila realizes they are all going to die. To save her daughter, Mila tells Felicia to run to a pretty, blond hair, blue eyed woman who is talking to an officer, presumably for her return to safety. Felicia runs, calling out mama and the woman embraces her. They both board a wagon together. As the officers start shooting, Mila runs toward the wagon.
5"Ilha Das Flores"Neasa HardimanJonathan CarenApril 11, 2024 (2024-04-11)
Mila trades her wedding ring for passage on the wagon. She is reunited with Felicia and they return home. Halina, Jakob and Bella come out of hiding and return to their home to find it destroyed. Adam, Bella’s sister Ana and Ana’s husband, Daniel are missing. Bella searches for her sister but it is decided Ana and Daniel are most likely dead. Halina, Jakob and Bella make arrangements to return to Radom but when Halina hears that Adam may be alive and being held in a Jewish encampment, she decides to stay in Lvov. Eliska and Addy arrive in Brazil but are detained because their visas have expired. Halina forges new identification paperwork to get Adam released. Genek, Herta and the others are taken to Uzbekistan to fight for Poland but they do not want Jews in the infantry. Genek fights with Herta about the infantry job. Eliska tells Addy they are the last ones allowed into Brazil. Addy is upset because he knows his family will not be allowed to join them and fights with Eliska. The Kurcs celebrate Rosh Hashanah. Sol reveals he has received a letter from Halina that says she and Adam are both ok, married and living in Warsaw. Bella gets upset and tells Jakob she is pursuing a job outside of the ghetto. Genek receives lessons on Catholicism so he can join the infantry. Free in Brazil, Eliska and Addy go their separate ways.
6"Warsaw"Amit GuptaEboni BoothApril 18, 2024 (2024-04-18)
September 1941 - At Halina’s suggestion, Mila carries out a plan to escape the ghetto and move to Warsaw with Felicia. A year later, in October 1942, Bella and Jakob are living separately; she is working outside the ghetto while he is still in the ghetto working as a photographer. Mila is working in Warsaw as a nanny for a rich family. Bella learns her parents are going to be sent to a concentration camp. Halina pays off a German officer in exchange for her parents’ freedom and makes arrangements for them to live with sympathizers. Bella tries to convince her parents to leave with her but they tell her that she has a better chance of survival without them. Jakob and other Jews are forced out of their homes in the middle of the night and violence ensues. The next day, Jakob is able to talk his way into seeing Bella and they have an emotional reunion. Mila goes to see Felicia, who is living in an orphanage to avoid potential persecution. The factory where Bella is working is being evacuated. Jakob, Bella and two of Bella’s friends are able to escape.
7"Monte Cassino"Neasa HardimanTea Ho & Adam MilchApril 25, 2024 (2024-04-25)

It’s April 1943 and Addy, who is still in Rio, writes to his family members. A month later, it is shown that Jakob and Bella are living and working in the Warsaw ghetto. In Rio, Addy is struggling after not having any contact with his family in over four years. By June 1943 in Palestine, Genek has secured a job in the Polish army by pretending to be Catholic. Felicia, who has to go by Barbara, is suffering from nightmares and is arising suspicion by the nuns taking care of her. Genek is diagnosed with an ulcer and in the hospital, he is reunited with his brother-in-law Selim (Mila’s husband), who is alive.

Seven months later in January 1944, in Warsaw, Halina is recognized on the street by a woman from Radom, who threatens to expose her as a Jew. Halina gives the woman some money and a coat and threatens to kill her if she sees her again. Halina is offered a job in Krakow by her boss, who is moving there, but she declines. Mila visits Felicia and the nun helping hide Felicia’s true identity asks Mila to come less frequently as to not confuse Felicia further. Genek, Selim and the army are now in Italy. The bombing and violence in Warsaw continues to escalate. In Rio, Addy meets an American woman named Caroline at a party and they begin dating. As the war starts to consume Warsaw, Halina travels to Krakow to see her former boss for help but is imprisoned on the train. The orphanage has been bombed but Mila and Adam find Felicia alive. Genek and the army embark on a "suicide mission" to capture Monte Cassino.
8"Rio"Thomas KailErica LipezMay 2, 2024 (2024-05-02)

October 1944 - Halina is imprisoned for being Jewish in the Montelupich Prison in Krakow, Poland. For three months, she is continually questioned about her identity and subsequently, beaten but she never admits her true name. As the other prisoners are killed off, Halina is finally released as her former employer comes to her rescue and vouches for her. Bella and Genek are pregnant. Halina and Adam are reunited and visit her parents, who are alive and still in hiding. By May 1945, Addy and Caroline are still together in Rio. They listen to the news on the radio that the Germans have surrendered. Sol, Nechuma and Halina return to their home in Radom with the hopes of hearing from Genek and Addy but are turned away by the current tenants. Adam learns that his family has not survived. Caroline and Addy decide to get married. Halina receives correspondence from Genek that he is with Selim and Herta in Italy. Felicia questions Mila about her father. The Kurcs immediately start planning their travel route to Italy. However, Bella and Jakob decide they will go to the United States and stay with Bella’s uncle. Sol, Nechuma, Adam, Halina, Mila and Felicia make the journey to Italy on foot, through the Alps. Halina tells Adam she is pregnant. The Kurcs have an emotional reunion in Italy. October 1945 - In Lodz, Poland, Jakob and Bella, with their baby, prepare to leave for the US. In Rio, Caroline and Addy are pregnant and they decide to move to the US. Addy meets with Eliska for lunch but is approached by a man who works for the Polish consulate and is looking for him. Addy receives a telegram from Genek that is family is alive. June 1946 - Caroline and Addy have a baby girl. The Kurcs arrive in Rio via boat. Ten months later, the Kurcs celebrate Passover together and remember the people they lost.

In the credits, we learn that Halina and Adam moved to São Paulo, Brazil and had two children. Mila, Selim and Felicia stayed in Rio. Felicia went to medical school and started a family in France. Genek, Herta and their two sons lived in São Paulo near Halina. Jakob and Maryla (Bella) moved to Chicago. Addy and Caroline settled in Massachusetts with their three children. Sol and Nechuma lived in São Paulo near their children. There are over 100 Kurc descendants today.

Production

The series is produced by 20th Television and is adapted by Erica Lipez from the 2017 Georgia Hunter book We Were The Lucky Ones, a New York Times Best Seller[7] inspired by the story of her own family.[8] Lipez also serves as showrunner and executive producer. Thomas Kail is director and executive producer, along with Adam Milch and Jennifer Todd who executive produces for Old 320 Sycamore and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon who executive produces for Pearl Street Films.[9] The score is composed by Rachel Portman and Jon Ehrlich.[10]

Casting

Joey King, Logan Lerman, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Amit Rahav and Hadas Yaron were cast as siblings who grow up in Radom, Poland with Lerman's role of Addy Kurc based on Hunter's real-life grandfather.[11] Both King and Lerman have discussed having family members themselves who escaped The Holocaust.[12][13]

Most of the characters are Polish Jews and these roles are mostly played by Jewish actors from the United States, Israel and England.[14] This is the second time that Yaron and Aloni have appeared as a couple, following their 2015–2021 work in the Israeli drama series Shtisel.[15] The role of Madame Lowbeer is portrayed by a non-Jewish actress, Marin Hinkle, who in real life is married to a Jewish man and raised their son Jewish.[16]

Filming

Filming took place from December 2022 and finished in spring 2023. Primarily filming took place in Bucharest, Romania with filming locations also including Málaga and Cádiz in Spain.[17]

Release

The series premiered on Hulu in the United States on March 28, 2024.[18]

Reception

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 95% approval rating with an average rating of 8/10, based on 22 critic reviews. The website's critics consensus reads, "Equal parts harrowing and life-affirming, We Were the Lucky Ones is a sensitively told tale of perseverance given tear-inducing heart by its wonderful ensemble."[19] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the limited series a "generally favorable" score of 80 out of 100, based on 13 critics.[20] RogerEbert.com concluded that "We Were the Lucky Ones is a defiant and harrowing, soul shattering story—one that gives the full range of the horrors that occur when you’ve been displaced, unmoored, and dehumanized."[21] Aramide Tinibu of Variety also praised the series: "Spending extended time with each member of the Kurcs allows the viewer to get into their psyche while absorbing differing perspectives and opinions instead of a monolithic overview of Holocaust survivors."[22]

The Jewish website Kveller praised the series as "a visceral, touching, sweeping and profoundly human show, one of the best you’ll see all year, and the Jewish representation in it is deeply thoughtful, perhaps more than any show I’ve ever seen."[14] The Boston Globe concluded: "So yes, the miniseries is challenging, and steeped in heartbreak, and unrelenting. But it joins a growing inventory of important, eye-opening, memorable, and timely TV takes on the Holocaust and World War II. Ultimately it is as rewarding as it is harrowing."[23]

References

  1. ^ a b Pruner, Aaron (22 March 2024). "'We Were the Lucky Ones' Review: Joey King Stands Out in Tragic Holocaust Story". TheWrap. Retrieved 23 March 2024.
  2. ^ Hunter, Georgia (2017). We Were the Lucky Ones. ISBN 978-0399563089.
  3. ^ Bergeson, Samantha (9 February 2024). "'We Were the Lucky Ones' Trailer: Joey King and Logan Lerman Escape Nazis in Harrowing True Story". IndieWire. Retrieved 10 February 2024.
  4. ^ "We Were the Lucky Ones". Hulu. Retrieved 17 April 2024.
  5. ^ "We Were the Lucky Ones". Writers Guild of America West. Retrieved 11 April 2024.
  6. ^ "Shows A-Z – We Were the Lucky Ones on Hulu". The Futon Critic. Retrieved 11 April 2024.
  7. ^ "Books | Best Sellers | Paperback Trade Fiction". The New York Times Book Review. 11 February 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2024.
  8. ^ Walsh, Savannah (28 March 2024). "We Were the Lucky Ones: The Real Kurc Family's Holocaust Survival Story". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on 29 March 2024. Retrieved 29 March 2024.
  9. ^ Petski, Denise (9 February 2024). "'We Were The Lucky Ones' Trailer: Joey King & Logan Lerman Flee The Nazis In Hulu Limited Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 10 February 2024.
  10. ^ Kuznikov, Selena (28 March 2024). "'We Were the Lucky Ones' Co-Composers Rachel Portman and Jon Ehrlich on 'Hopeful' Title Theme". Variety. Archived from the original on 2 April 2024. Retrieved 29 March 2024.
  11. ^ Ulatowski, Rachel (10 February 2024). "We Were The Lucky Ones Trailer: Logan Lerman & Joey King Fight To Survive WWII In NYT Bestselling Adaptation". Screen Rant. Archived from the original on 5 March 2024. Retrieved 10 February 2024.
  12. ^ Sloop, Hope (9 February 2024). "Joey King on Why WWII Series 'We Were the Lucky Ones' Is 'Very Personal' to Her". Entertainment Tonight. Retrieved 10 February 2024.
  13. ^ Zuckerman, Esther (28 March 2024). "Logan Lerman Honors Two Families in 'We Were the Lucky Ones'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 4 April 2024. Retrieved 29 March 2024.
  14. ^ a b Hulu’s ‘We Were the Lucky Ones’ Lets Jewish People Be the Heroes of Their Holocaust Story Kveller. 28 March 2024
  15. ^ Zeitlin, Alan (19 June 2019). "'Shtisel' Actress, Hadas Yaron Opens Up About Her Character". New York Jewish Week. Archived from the original on 30 March 2024. Retrieved 31 March 2024.
  16. ^ Zaltzman, Lior (12 June 2023). "This 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Star Raised Jewish Kids Both On and Off Screen". Kveller. Archived from the original on 31 March 2024.
  17. ^ Gonzalez, Erica (22 January 2024). "Here's Your First Look at Joey King and Logan Lerman in Hulu's We Were the Lucky Ones". Elle. Retrieved 10 February 2024.
  18. ^ Davis, Edward (9 February 2024). "'We Were The Lucky Ones' Trailer: Joey King & Logan Lerman Play Members Of A Jewish Family Trying To Survive WWII". The Playlist. Retrieved 10 February 2024.
  19. ^ "We Were the Lucky Ones: Season 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 18 April 2024.
  20. ^ "We Were the Lucky Ones: Season 1". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  21. ^ We Were the Lucky Ones rogerEbert.com. 26 March 2024
  22. ^ ‘We Were the Lucky Ones’ Is a Gutting and Thoughtful Depiction of a Jewish Family in the Holocaust: TV Review Variety. 27 March 2024
  23. ^ A family driven apart in the shattering Holocaust drama 'We Were the Lucky Ones' Boston Globe. 28 March 2024