Stream It Or Skip It

Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Rough Diamonds’ On Netflix, Where A Man Returns To His Estranged Family To Defend Its Reputation

Where to Stream:

Rough Diamonds

Powered by Reelgood

The new Belgian thriller Rough Diamonds is more than just about smuggling and dirty dealing. It also involves a man who comes back to his ultra-Orthodox Jewish family after leaving the sect fifteen years ago in order to find out what made his brother commit suicide.


Opening Shot: A young Jewish man lies in his bed, eyes wide open.

The Gist: Yanki Wolfson (Vincent Van Sande) ritually washes his hands and gets out of bed; he gets dressed in his traditional garb, but leaves his diamond-encrusted watch at home. He walks to the diamond exchange in downtown Antwerp, to the offices of Wolfson Diamonds, where he works. That’s when he tricks the security guard, grabs his gun, runs into an office, and kills himself.

Noah Wolfson (Kevin Janssens), who left left his family’s Orthodox sect 15 years ago, is at the Brussels airport with his son, Tommy McCabe (Casper Knopf) — he has his late mother’s last name. He didn’t find out about his brother Yanki’s death via his estranged family, though.

What he also found out is that Yanki was a gambling addict who owed a bookie hundreds of thousands of euros. He surprises his family at Yanki’s funeral; his sister Adina (Ini Massez) is happy to see him after 15 years, but his brother Eli (Robbie Cleiren) isn’t quite as happy. He’s also there to see Yani’s widow Gila (Marie Vinck), with whom he had a relationship before he suddenly left all those years ago.

He finds out the bookie’s name from his friend Sammy Silber (Joost Vandecasteele), who is the one who told him about Yanki’s death. He threatens the bookie, who seems unfazed; he tells Noah that Yanki went to Eli for help and Eli sent him away. When he angrily goes back to his family with that info, Eli denies it happened like that, but even if it did, it was more important to protect the family name. An exasperated Noah says this is one of the reasons why he left.

Adina tells Noah that Yanki was doing shady diamond deals, one where he never got payment. Now they owe a supplier over a million euros, a debt they could have absorbed a decade ago, but the diamond trade isn’t what it was. If an arbitrator’s ruling doesn’t go their way, it’ll ruin the business.

Meanwhile, prosecutor Jo Smets (Els Dottermans) is investigating an Albanian drug smuggling operation, which is being executed through secret compartments in shipping containers, given that they’ve frozen other ways for the Albanians to sell their goods. The captures are small and sporadic, until a find of rough diamonds worth over a million euros is discovered.

Rough Diamonds
Photo: Netflix

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Take Shtisel and combine it with Homeland, and you’ve got Rough Diamonds.

Our Take: On the surface, Rough Diamonds just looks like a thriller about a man trying to root out the smuggling and gambling activities that could ruin his family. But there are underlying stories about family and religion that underpins the thriller aspect, giving the stakes that Noah faces much higher than they normally would.

We don’t exactly know why Noah left the ultra-Orthodox sect in Antwerp, aside from just being completely frustrated with how his family would rather protect its name than its actual family members. We also don’t quite know what he does in London, but a phone call Tommy has with his grandmother gives us a clue, as well as how proficient Noah is at tossing around the bookie Yanki owed money to. The way he tossed the guy out a window onto a car a few feet below shows us that he’s more than just a shipping supervisor.

Those parts of the story are what is going to keep things moving. Noah has a fascinating history, and we hope that gets more explored as he figures out just who Yanki was dealing with and how to save his family’s business.

We don’t usually see characters come back to an ultra-Orthodox sect after leaving, so we also hope that aspect is explored. Even though Noah doesn’t seem to want to go back, his recital of the Mourner’s Kaddish at Yanki’s gravesite a week after his death tells us that there’s some aspect of him that’s still with them. It’ll be interesting to see how his insider/outsider status plays with the rest of this closed-off family and society.

Sex and Skin: None in the first episode.

Parting Shot: Among the shipping containers, Smets sees the bag of rough diamonds, and wonders where they came from.

Sleeper Star: Gila, played by Marie Vinck, doesn’t seem to be 100 percent enthralled to be part of the Wolfson family, and we wonder if she has thoughts of leaving the sect just like Noah did fifteen years ago.

Most Pilot-y Line: The series has a cultural consultant, yet the mirror in Yanki’s apartment isn’t covered while his family sits shiva. That’s a head-scratcher.

Our Call: STREAM IT. We hope Rough Diamonds balances its action sequences with its story of family and faith. It will give the show a lot more depth than it would have had otherwise.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon,,, Fast Company and elsewhere.