Mum review – magnificent TV that will put sunshine in your heart

Mum – How the BBC sitcom became the best depiction of grief on TV

Guaranteed to make you cry four times every episode, the final series of the Lesley Manville sitcom miraculously turns tiny gestures into epic romance

By Jack Seale

Mum is a comedy that can be agony. When it first wiped its feet, hung up its anorak and shuffled politely on to BBC Two in 2016, at times it was perhaps too painfully funny. For a season and a half, Mum was very very good, and Lesley Manville was flawless as Cathy, a recent widow bedevilled in her nice Essex semi by her insensitive relatives. It was, however, tiptoeing awfully close to a couple of traps that can snare cringe-coms.

First, the “main character is nice, everyone else is a grotesque fool” format was a little too stark, as we wondered how the saintly Cathy could withstand a torrent of micro-aggressions from her unbelievably selfish son Jason, his incredibly stupid girlfriend Kelly (Lisa McGrillis), Cathy’s outrageously crass brother Derek (Ross Boatman) and his catastrophically snooty partner Pauline (Dorothy Atkinson). Meanwhile, the forbidden connection between Cathy and her late husband’s best pal Michael (Peter Mullan) progressed by nanometres per episode, as he repeatedly stared at her benignly instead of announcing that he’d always loved her. “Character has every opportunity to say The Thing, but never does” is another sadcom trope that risks turning sympathy into frustration: just bloody say it, we almost screamed.

Having taken us right to the limit, though, writer – and since season two, director – Stefan Golaszewski was able to bring us back. Just when the supporting characters’ infernal suburban prattle about cars, holidays and whether rice can be eaten with stew stopped distracting us and we reached breaking point, there was an emotional pay-off to make it all worthwhile. Near the end of season two, Cathy putting down her washing basket to hug Michael, or the pair slyly holding hands during a fireworks display, were tiny gestures made huge by the journey we had taken to get there – and by the craft of Golaszewski, Manville and Mullan, who have the chops to turn glances, silences and desultory chats about getting to the tip before it closes into epic romance.

In the new, third and final season – bingeable in full on iPlayer – Golaszewski shows he has known exactly what he has been doing all along. The whole clan decamps to a Kent mansion on holiday, with episodes covering consecutive days rather than taking place weeks apart as previously, to celebrate Derek’s birthday. Cathy and Michael have admitted their love to each other, but not to anyone else. In this pressured new environment, those moments of release arrive harder and faster. Before now, Mum probably made you cry once a year. Prepare for that to become three or four times an episode.

Mullan and Manville remain magnificent: he has a speech in the fifth episode to rank with the greatest romcom soliloquys, and just the way he looks at her with his happily creased eyes will put sunshine in your heart for a month. But the miracle Golaszewski performs here is in humanising his small army of monsters, giving characters who were once cartoons a heartbreaking inner life that previous seasons only hinted at. It is hard to pick an outstanding member of the ensemble: maybe it’s Boatman as simple-soul Derek, whose pathetic jokes and clumsily planned spontaneity hide an insecurity that makes him willing to accept humiliation from Pauline. Maybe it is Atkinson as Pauline, who reveals the vicious sadness that lies inside any sharp-elbowed snob; she has worked with both Mike Leigh and Victoria Wood, two poles of influence that visibly pull on Golaszewski’s scripts. At its best, Mum equals them both.

The hardest job is handed to Sam Swainsbury as Jason, who is so lazy, thick and unobservant that he has always been borderline problematic. In these new episodes, his fear of Michael usurping his late father manifests in the sort of hostility that Mum would usually have skirted around. It’s another fine line that the show barely walks back from, but – whether or not it’s plausible or redemptive – Jason is the core of what the show is really about. As well as its myriad observations about family members who didn’t choose each other; and who annoy and impede each other in a hundred unintended ways each day; and who have an inkling of what they should do to make things better but aren’t always brave or articulate enough to overcome their limitations; as well as all that, season three of Mum completes a portrait of a gang united by grief. They are terrible because they’re missing a son, a friend, a husband or, in Jason’s case, a dad.

It has been worth all the pain to work these people out. Mum might have looked like it was just a sitcom, but it had something beautiful to say about love and loss. It’s said it.

How “Normal People” Makes Us Fall in Love

The stars of the twelve-episode series adapted from Sally Rooney’s 2018 novel discuss young love, miscommunications, and the language of tea.

By Anna Russell

Recently, a woman named Mary called into the popular Irish radio show “Liveline” with a complaint about “Normal People,” the television adaptation of Sally Rooney’s 2018 novel by the same name, now airing on Hulu and BBC 3. “I imagine it was like something you’d expect to see in a porno movie, certainly not for family viewing,” Mary told the host. “But anyways, that’s my opinion.” Soon after, the tabloid newspaper the Sun claimed, somewhat breathlessly, that “Normal People” included forty-one minutes of sex scenes, making it “the BBC’s raunchiest drama ever.” In Ireland’s parliament, the tourism minister explained that a promotional video made to encourage fans to visit County Sligo, where much of the show’s filming took place, was “selective” in its use of clips from the episodes. It’s true: the video features majestic shots of Ben Bulben, a flat-topped rock formation which dominates the landscape, but no nakedness. Continue reading

‘Normal People’ Star Daisy Edgar-Jones Is Having Her Big Break From Home

As the lead in the Hulu/BBC drama and one of the year’s most anticipated TV shows, the rising British talent is having a major career moment, one that she’s been experiencing from the confines of her London flat.

by Alex Ritman | Hollywood Reporter

Having your big Hollywood break in the middle of a global pandemic is a curious experience.

Whereas many rising stars about to be jettisoned into the public eye thanks to a TV show or movie might expect to be shepherded by teams of publicists between late night talk show sofas, photographer’s studios, magazines and newspaper offices, hotels for press junkets and perhaps even a few long-haul flights, for Daisy Edgar-Jones the COVID-19 lockdown has seen the usual media circuit stripped back to whatever can be achieved from her bedroom.

Not that it’s made the promotional work any less hectic for the star of the 12-part Hulu/BBC drama Normal People.

Thanks to the phenomenal buzz surrounding the show, based on the word-of-mouth sensation that was Sally Rooney’s 2018 novel about the four-year on-and-off romance of a young Irish couple, the 21-year-old has been conducting near back-to-back interviews over the phone and via Zoom from her shared flat in the north London borough of Haringey. And while there may be less pampering and travel, promoting the show from home is certainly making things a little less complicated when it comes to getting herself ready for each video call.

“I only have to dress up from my upper half, because that’s the only thing onscreen,” she says with a laugh. “It’s jogging bottoms on the lower half … it’s great.”

Normal People - Publicity still 2- EMbed -2020
Edgar-Jones plays the awkward and bookish Marianne in ‘Normal People,’ based on Sally Rooney’s bestselling second novel.

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Emmys spotlight: Asa Butterfield on ‘Sex Education’ resuming production

When hit Netflix series Sex Education (hopefully) returns to production this summer, it will be one of the first major shows to do so following the coronavirus shutdown.

Asa Butterfield, who plays lead character Otis, is looking forward to it. “We’re going to be paving the way, potentially, for how things are done for the next while,” he says. “They want to get it right – there will be a lot of safety protocol put in place.”

Shot predominantly in south Wales, the high school drama’s sun-kissed visuals require long days of light. It was scheduled to film season three in May, before lockdown intervened; the restart is now tentatively scheduled for August, according to Sony, parent company of the show’s UK-based production company Eleven.

The option of quarantining a full cast and crew has been floated as a solution to Covid-19 transmission concerns in the industry. “If that’s what needs to be done, then that’s what needs to be done,” says Butterfield of the possibility that Sex Education could adopt such a measure. “I’m lucky that Wales isn’t that far from home – it’s in the same time zone and relatively similar. I’ve been staying in my apartment for the last few months so it wouldn’t be all that different – it’ll just be a different apartment!”

Whatever social distancing measures are required on set, he is naturally keen they don’t alter the essence of the show. “The foundation of this show is relationships, friendships, and intimacy, and it gives such a positive message. Otis and [best friend] Eric are always hugging and jumping around – we can’t change that. I would rather we all quarantined and we keep the heart of the show than lose that.”

Butterfield hopes the detailed work the industry is doing for a post-pandemic return as a chance to adopt greener shooting practices. “People are realising what’s important and what’s necessary, and then what’s just being wasteful. I know Sex Education is really pushing to minimise waste; taking that even further would be something that could come out of this.”

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