‘Absolute Beginners,’ a Polish Netflix drama show, immerses the viewers in a coming-of-age narrative set against the backdrop of a seaside town and diminishing teenage years. Over the summer break, Lena and Niko, childhood best friends, travel to their family’s shared vacation cabin by the beach, where they work on a film for their application portfolios. However, their summer— and Lena’s film— takes an unexpected turn when Igor, a young athlete, enters the scene and introduces new dynamics in the two friends’ lives.
With Lena and Niko’s friendship as the narrative’s nucleus, the show delves into universally relatable but convoluted themes of childhood, relationships, and ambitions. Therefore, through its characters’ authenticity, the story seamlessly grounds itself in reality, which might lead some viewers to question its connection to the same. Here’s what you need to know!
An Authentic But Fictional Story
No, ‘Absolute Beginners’ is not based on a true story. The show was created by Nina Lewandowska and Kamila Tarabura, who wrote the story alongside Jedrzej Napiecek. Tarabura also directed a few episodes of the six-part show, with Katarzyna Warzecha helming the others as a director.
Interestingly, Tarabura and Warzecha had a longstanding friendship before their professional relationship after attending the Wajda Film School together. Furthermore, creators Lewandowska and Tarabura previously worked on the latter’s directorial debut on the short film ‘Into The Night,’ on which Lewandowska served as the screenplay writer. Therefore, the pre-existing collaborative relationship within the set likely extended a helping hand in establishing a creative space with room for easy authenticity.
As such, the resulting charged environment that envelops the show greatly helps set the tone for this artsy story about three teenagers dealing with their interpersonal and introspective complications. While each character pursues their own storyline that remains interconnected through Lena’s passion project film about love, an overarching theme of pursuing one’s life’s passion emerges through their different experiences.
The narrative also mirrors the same theme in the background lives of the adults in Lena, Igor, and Niko’s life by depicting how people face similar hurdles regardless of their age and maturity. Similarly, by providing a selection of characters, all undergoing their personal transformations, the show affords its audience multiple avenues to find relatability.
For instance, Malwina’s character, although secondary, provides an account of people who feel trapped by their surroundings and crave bigger and better things in life. Likewise, Igor and Niko’s characters embody the tumultuous indecisiveness of youth. Through it all, Lena’s character remains the anchor that ties everything together.
As an autistic teenager, Lena serves as an incredible representation within the show, with the narrative maintaining complete transparency about her diagnosis. Through the realistic depiction of things like stimming, masking, and the general disconnect Lena feels from her peers, her storyline does an impressive job of bringing her neurodivergent character to the screen. Better yet, the same is done without trivializing Lena’s identity as a person on the spectrum while still emphasizing how alienating the experience can be in general.
In fact, Lena’s drive to bring her thoughts into the world in a tangible way through her storytelling remains the show’s central focus. As such, her character becomes relatable to other autistic or neurodivergent individuals while also retaining universally understood experience.
Another crucial aspect of Lena’s character that ends up becoming a cornerstone of the show is her relationship with Niko. The two teenagers’ friendship remains colored with hints of romance and sexual attraction throughout the show. Yet, the complication presented by their complex relationship never comes in between their love and affection for each other. Thus, viewers will likely appreciate such an honest portrayal of human connections and relate with the characters.
Niko’s gradual but effortless exploration of her sexuality and queerness is another facet of his character that occupies a refreshing place within this classic coming-of-age storyline. In the same vein, although the polyamorous aspect of Lena, Niko, and Igor’s relationship is only slightly touched upon, certain demographics can relate to this experience as well.
Ultimately, the show finds its tethers to reality through the genuine experiences of its characters that inform the lived realities of many people. While the same is the mark of any good coming-of-age story, ‘Absolute Beginners’ makes it its own by highlighting underrepresented aspects of youth without shying away from the messy parts of life. Still, other than the same, the show has no roots in real-life people or events.