HBO Max has been turning out tons of new content since its launch earlier this year. From series like Love Life to documentaries like Class Action Park, a wide array of genres have been covered – and now, they’re venturing into a whole new space. A World of Calm, the platform’s first foray into the health & wellness space, is unlike anything most big name streamers have ever put out. This visual adaptation of the hugely popular meditation app takes viewers on trips around the world with the help of A-List voices like Keanu Reeves, Oscar Isaac, Kate Winslet, Idris Elba, and more.
Opening Shot: The sun rises over a stunning, tranquil ocean scene, framed by tropical foliage and mountain silhouettes.
The Gist: A World of Calm builds on the success of the Calm App’s “Sleep Stories,” utilizing celebrity voices to narrate scenes of nature, wildlife, craftsmanship, cooking, and more around the world. The first installment, “The Coral City,” features the voice of Lucy Liu and takes us on a journey through Indonesia’s Raja Ampat, Archipelago. This is a place where two oceans meet, where hundreds of thousands of creatures live in harmony amongst the seemingly endless coral. Our guide (for much of the episode) is an old sea turtle searching for a safe place to rest who has just arrived to this “city.” Rather than filling every moment of the episode with Liu’s narration, we’re instead immersed in the ambient sounds of the ocean; we hear the echoes of fish calling to one another, the gurgle of bubbles, the rushing whooshes as schools of fish pass by. It’s an “aquatic symphony,” a beautiful place where creatures live in harmony, sharing life and energy.
Fish of every color, seahorses, tiny organisms, and humans all coexist in this ancient site. We meet a local boy who spends his days diving down to greet his aquatic friends, able to hold his breath for long periods of time. This is his playground. At night, we get a glimpse of bioluminescence and the special light show coral puts on with the help of the specialized algae that resides inside it. It’s a dreamy dive into a hidden world, one that is simultaneously informative and incredibly relaxing. The other nine installments of A World of Calm are similarly tranquilizing in nature; we’ve got Nicole Kidman on birds, Idris Elba on space, Zoë Kravitz on glassmaking, Cillian Murphy on snow, Oscar Isaac on noodles, Keanu Reeves on woodworking, Kate Winslet on wild horses, Priyanka Chopra Jonas on chocolate, and Mahershala Ali on water. It’s part travel show, part documentary, part meditation. A unique hybrid.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? While video meditations have certainly existed for a while, A World of Calm is doing something all its own. It’s like if your meditation app had a baby with Our Planet and Down to Earth with Zac Efron. I’m not even sure that quite captures it, but it’s the best I’ve got.
Our Take: I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical about A World of Calm. I’ve listened to more than a few celebrity-narrated meditations and audiobooks, and most haven’t left a particularly lasting impression. But I was pleasantly surprised by this series, which somehow doesn’t feel totally manufactured or pandering as one might assume a pandemic-era meditation app-based series to be. It might not be for everyone, but it’s hard to imagine who wouldn’t be charmed by the dulcet tones of beloved actors lulling you to a place of desperately needed tranquility.
The first installment is the perfect hook; the visuals are breathtaking, and Liu’s voice is, well, calming. Pair that with the inherently serene nature of the ocean, and you’ve got magic. I can’t explain why, but I found myself getting emotional watching the sea turtle close his eyes and rest, finally having found the right spot to settle for the time being. Perhaps it was the characterization the episode’s writer so successfully created, or maybe it was just the idea of it all; that this sea turtle had come from far away and sought out a place to feel safe and calm, and that these creatures accepted him. I mean, the fish stopping to polish his shell while he totally zens out? Bliss.
A World of Calm is a much-needed balm. I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced anything quite like it. There are tons of videos like this on YouTube, sure, but there’s a special care that seems to have been taken with this series, and of course, many added points due to the celebrity voices who take us on these peaceful journeys. I never knew Oscar Isaac narrating the story of a family noodle recipe could feel so… healing. Watching birds take flight as Nicole Kidman delivers what is essentially a spoken-word lullaby? Taking in the galaxy while Idris Elba waxes poetic on the vastness of space? Immersing yourself in the melodic tones of Keanu Reeves’ voice while we watch a dedicated woodworker? Exactly what the doctor ordered. A World of Calm is like if melatonin was a television series. And I mean that in the absolute best way possible.
Parting Shot: The waves crash gently against the sand, and the sprawling coral city beneath them continues to bustle.
Sleeper Star: That sleepy tourist sea turtle. He’s going places.
Our Call: STREAM IT. While it may not be a conventional series, we could all use some soothing, gentle entertainment these days. Stop stressing, take a seat, and let A World of Calm wash over you. You can thank us later.
Jade Budowski is a freelance writer with a knack for ruining punchlines and harboring dad-aged celebrity crushes. Follow her on Twitter: @jadebudowski.
Source: NY Post