David Nicholls is the king of comforting comedy and many of us have been banking on this four-part adaptation of his 2014 novel, Us, to offer respite from the hideousness of 2020. The first episode did not disappoint, capturing the novel’s winning blend of poignancy and wry humour.
“I think our marriage might be over,” announced Connie (Saskia Reeves) in the middle of the night, giving her husband, Douglas (Tom Hollander), the wake-up call of any devoted spouse’s nightmares.
Despite this bombshell, however, they decided to go on their family holiday as planned – which gave pedantic biochemist Douglas not only the chance to bond with his 17-year-old son, Albie (Tom Taylor), but also an opportunity to demonstrate his easygoing new self. (He’d misunderstood Connie’s assertion that she wanted “change” as a plea for him to change.)
Their grand tour of Europe provided welcome holiday porn in the form of delectable shots of Paris landmarks; future episodes will feature Amsterdam, Venice and Barcelona. The action was punctuated by flashbacks to when the couple first met, and Iain De Caestecker and Gina Bramhill impressed as the young Douglas and Connie.
But the present-day scenes were the most compelling. Hollander is the perfect choice to deliver Douglas’s sarky quips, yet he also transmitted the simultaneous gravity and ridiculousness of his character’s predicament, as in the scene where Douglas took out his ire on some cardboard boxes while opera music played in the background.
Us star Saskia Reeves: ‘Couples can split up without it meaning the end of the world’
And while I’d hoped the adaptation would include more of Connie’s perspective, Saskia Reeves’s quietly devastating performance gave insight into a woman desperate to find fulfilment in life before it’s too late.
Occasionally, the dialogue felt overly neat, like it was written for stage rather than screen – but when a show boasts the cheering sight of Hollander whizzing around Paris on an electric scooter, it feels churlish to complain too much
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