Platonic Review: A Webseries Celebrating Messy Millennial Lives

Platonic webseries review
Rosa Gilmore as Andrea and Summer Spiro as Olive. Photo by Erin C. Buckley.

Ever since Carmilla revolutionized our viewing habits, the humble web series was elevated to a staple food in a diet of lesbian content. This format has flourished in the last decade, opening up a new avenue of Sapphic storytelling. From BAES Welcome to Brown Girls, 3L’s to Anne+, we’re here for it. And now there’s a new kid on the block: Erin C. Buckley’s Platonic.

Platonic tells the story of two thirty-somethings, unlucky in love, living in Brooklyn. Olive is a lesbian who keeps falling for the wrong women. And Billy is her best friend, whose attempts at romance are similarly chaotic. The two communicate via voicemail, sharing the highs and lows of their misadventures. This friendship is the most stable and straightforward relationship in either of their lives; a steady connection in a world of hook ups and bad dates.

At first glance the love lives of a lesbian woman and a straight man don’t have that much in common. But both Olive and Billy are looking for love in all the wrong places. They’re united by a shared struggle to navigate the ambiguities of the modern dating landscape. The message: whether you’re gay or straight, male or female, it’s complicated. Platonic is never more compelling than when its characters are caught in the in-between spaces, uncertain whether a relationship is founded in friendship, romance, or lust.

Platonic is a new webseries on YouTube
Alfie Fuller as Isabel and Summer Spiro as Olive. Photo credit Erin C. Buckley.

The web series doesn’t follow conventional narrative structures. It’s not a story with a clear cut beginning, middle, and end. Rather, each episode offers a snapshot of two lives in motion. Some would work well as stand alone pieces; most notably episode three, Straight Friend Interludes, which is a seduction in six minutes. Olive takes a woman from ambivalence to intense lust with nothing but the power of dirty talk, and it’s incredible to witness.

Platonic consists of ten episodes in total, each around five minutes long. This formatting makes the series highly watchable for a generation who spend as much time gazing into phones as the characters do. Despite this brevity, Platonic manages to communicate a solid sense of place, time, and the lives lived in this context.

Glimpses of a cityscape seen through nearly bare branches, streets bathed in the gentle glow of autumn sunlight, are breath-taking in their beauty. But they only last a moment. Platonic is sparingly shot. Although, at times, the drama lags. This is because the most interesting relationships often go under-explored.

Olive is constantly catching feels for women: girls in bars, old friends… even her strictly sex-only booty call. Women disappear from her life as suddenly as they arrive. No sooner has Olive professed love for a girl than she is gone, never to be seen or heard from again. These about turns are so sudden that Platonic risks leaving viewers with whiplash.

Though discombobulating, Platonic and its cast of characters are entertaining. And when the story lags, the sheer beauty of the shots – the framing, the lighting, the composition – is more than enough to carry an audience through.

Platonic is written, created, directed, and produced by Erin C Buckley. In this respect, the credits read like a Marc Jacobs label. But it is Buckley’s vision that propelled this web series into being, her gaze behind the camera, her words in the characters’ mouths. There is a cohesiveness to the series that makes it work. With mellow lighting and a lively soundtrack, Buckley created an aesthetic worthy of Sofia Coppola – and on an infinitely smaller budget. That’s a big accomplishment.

Here at AfterEllen, we’re looking forward to seeing what Erin C. Buckley does next. In the mean time, you can stream Platonic on YouTube from August 12.