Netflix’s erotic thriller 365 Days and its sequel, 365 Days: This Day, are phenomenally popular on the streaming service despite the original movie having a dismal 0% rating on the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. For years, popular romance franchises have struggled with critics but proved huge hits with audiences. For example, Twilight’s movie adaptations were derided as corny and contrived by reviewers but brought in hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office.
At first glance, the critical failure and surprise streaming success of the 365 Days franchise look like a similar situation. An over-the-top guilty pleasure, the 365 Days movies are frequently — and not unreasonably —compared to the 50 Shades of Grey series, which was itself originally a work of Twilight fan-fiction. However, critics have found the 365 Days movies to be much more objectionable than most goofy but harmless romance fare.
The 2020 erotic romance adaptation 365 Days tells the story of Laura, who is held captive by mafia don Massimo for the titular time frame as he attempts to make her fall in love with him. The sequel 365 Days: This Day, is more complicated, with secret identical twins, shoot-outs, secret rival mafia dons, another love interest, and many more conventions of the larger-than-life romantic thriller genre. However, the inherent silliness that comes with this genre territory is not what most critics object to about the 365 Days movies. Rather, it is the question of whether the franchise glamorizes abusive relationship dynamics in its portrayal of Laura and Massimo’s romance.
Why 365 Days Was Controversial
365 Days proved controversial upon release due to the numerous scenes wherein Massimo, despite claiming he wouldn’t so much as touch Laura without her consent, gropes her, manhandles her, coerces her into uncomfortable situations, ignores her discomfort and, in the movie’s most infamous scene, forces her to watch him receive oral sex from someone else. As the above summary implies, Laura and Massimo’s relationship in the 365 Days movies is clearly not a healthy one. Moreover, the fact that 365 Days depicts Laura’s situation as a glamorous, sexy predicament and not a frightening, discomfiting, or dangerous one led critics to worry that the franchise would promote such abusive behavior.
Why 365 Days’ Rotten Tomatoes Score Is 0%
While it’s nothing new for a popular romance movie to fail to impress critics, the reviews received by both 365 Days movies are particularly risible. While the franchise earns a lot of criticism for its technical flaws — bad acting, a cheesy soundtrack, gratuitous slow-motion, an absurd storyline, and dour, humorless writing — reviews featured on Rotten Tomatoes are more concerned with the question of how the relationship depicted in 365 Days and its sequel could influence impressionable viewers. Some critics, such as Cosmopolitan‘s Taylor Andrews, view this as the biggest problem with the series, while others like Variety‘s Jessica Kiang argue that even viewers who aren’t likely to replicate these behaviors would still find the movie to be embarrassingly bad.
“For a movie that has multiple young viewers, it’s extremely harmful to show BDSM sex scenes without highlighting the proper precautions to ensure a safe, healthy, and consensual environment in the bedroom. Massimo’s first BDSM scene with Laura was rooted in fear and manipulation and under the pretenses that she wanted to watch him with another woman while being tied up. Showing these scenes is extremely problematic and, to be quite frank, disgusting.”
“… the film is downright rapey… 365 Days, which sexualizes every aspect of its story, including Laura’s friendship with BFF Olga… it’s an orgy of erotic nonsense in which lips are often licked (especially after eating melting ice cream cones), clothes are routinely discarded, and affluence is joyfully fetishized at every turn.”
“… the dumber-than-hair sexual politics, the two flavors of misogyny (internalized and overt) and the extremely ugly suggestion — exemplified by a flight attendant smiling through streaky mascara as though the rough oral sex she reluctantly performed on Massimo were somehow pleasurable for her — that consent can be obtained retroactively. That, of course is the premise of “365 Days” and also one of the oldest, falsest and most enraging canards of rape apologism: That it can’t be rape if it seems, after the fact, like she ‘enjoyed’ it. Couple that to the tacitly admiring attitude toward to Massimo’s ‘alpha male’ mafia status and you just have to hope that 365 Days’ utter preposterousness will be bulwark enough against its queasy, archaic assumptions ever even lightly brushing against the real world.”
365 Days & 365 Days 2 Are Both Huge On Netflix
Despite these woeful reviews, 365 Days: This Day and its franchise predecessor earned massive viewership on Netflix, with the sequel recently hitting number one on the streaming service’s charts. While the original 365 Days movie crawled its way up to the number two spot in June 2020 after being released five months earlier, the sequel, 365 Days: This Day, earned nearly 78 million streaming hours in its first week on Netflix alone. That is a staggering performance for the service, and it’s not impossible to discern how it came about.
Why 365 Days Movies Are So Popular On Netflix (Despite Being Bad)
Despite the two 365 Days movies being morally questionable, Kiang essentially encapsulated the reason behind the franchise’s incredible streaming performance in her review of the original movie. The series is so unabashedly absurd that 365 Days and its sequel function as laughably over-the-top guilty pleasure movies for many viewers, at least according to reactions to the first two installments found across social media. Meanwhile, the fans searching for 365 Days: This Day’s beautiful filming locations and trying to find the stunning beaches featured in the sequel are unlikely to say that they want to be swept up in a bullet-riddled melodrama like that of Laura and Massimo’s relationship in their real lives. However, even as a goofy, silly fantasy, the 365 Days movies still raise the tricky ethical question of when depiction becomes endorsement. While filmmakers have been depicting abusive relationships for decades, not every depiction of an unhealthy or dangerous dynamic comes with a built-in critique.
The 365 Days movies do not, at any point, attempt to justify Massimo and Laura’s toxic dynamic. The series unashamedly depicts an abusive relationship as sexy and fun and uncritically glamorizes the terrible way that Massimo treats Laura. However, much like a lot of action movies uncritically glamorize extremely violent behavior, as Kiang’s article notes, it would be hard to mistake the world of the controversial 365 Days franchise for reality. That being said, this clarification doesn’t necessarily provide the filmmakers with carte blanche to depict any objectionable content as glamorous and sexy. Ultimately, it is up to individual viewers to decide whether they see the content of both 365 Days movies as harmless, over-the-top fantasy, a glamorization of toxic dynamics that perpetuates problematic gender roles, or both at once. For many reviewers, the latter appears to outweigh the former, but for a lot of Netflix viewers, the shoddy acting and laughably silly screenwriting are no more off-putting than the controversial content and its glamorization of toxic relationship dynamics.
Will 365 Days Be Just As Popular (& Bad)?
It is unlikely that the upcoming 365 Days 3 will address any of the major issues with the earlier movies in the franchise. After all, Massimo’s unhinged machismo is part and parcel of the character’s appeal (his book counterpart kills Laura’s dog in the final novel of the source trilogy upon discovering she has run off with the gardener). The movies are seemingly popular because of the deeply problematic relationship dynamic they portray, not despite it, and, as such, Netflix and the franchise’s creators are unlikely to move away from this in the final movie of the series despite their lack of critical popularity. Even if these movies found a way to make their story less morally questionable, there would be the problem that 365 Days and 365 Days: This Day feature terrible acting, absurd storylines, and goofy dialogue, meaning that fixing the franchise might be impossible even with its problematic elements somehow excised entirely in the third outing.
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