Genre: Drama, Black Comedy, Mini-Series | Country: United Kingdoms, United States | 2018 | Five episodes
Directed by Edward Berger | Written by David Berger
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Hugo Weaving, Harriet Walter
Patrick Melrose is a series produced by Showtime and starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the main character. It’s based on five novels by English author, Edward St Aubyn, which were republished in 2012 under the name The Patrick Melrose novels.
Set in the 1980s, the story begins with the upper-class citizen Patrick Melrose having to fly from London to New York City to attend his father’s funeral and collect his ashes afterward.
The conflict is set right away as the main character answers the phone to hear about his father’s death. It’s the middle of the day and Patrick Melrose is already intoxicated and barely capable of articulating himself. Also, he doesn’t seem to care about it. On the contrary.
His only worry is to know how to survive his stay in New York City without being able to take drugs. Soon it gets very clear why the death of his father seems to leave him cold.
Patrick Melrose is one of those series who shapes the awareness of the audience, not only because of its tremendous storytelling and acting but also because of a sensitive and highly esthetical cinematography. Cinematographer James Friend (Rillington Place, Victoria, The Musketeers) who created a very textural, precious and remastered 1980s-like quality of the picture, did a marvelous job underlining the drama of this poignant story.
Every scene was esthetically mastered and served the development of this semi-autobiographical narration, but one scene, in particular, has remained etched in my memory. This scene isn’t the most spectacular, as there are others with much more tension, but it serves as a powerful metaphor for the loneliness and despair of the main character. It’s a pool scene, taken from the above: As everything should have gotten better for the character, we witness him standing alone at the edge of a pool watching a robotic cleaner follows its random trajectory under water.
I can’t emphasize enough on how I’m touched by the performance of Benedict Cumberbatch. Yes, he’s a world renown actor and this is not a revelation telling this, but he seems to get even better with each new acting job. Benedict Cumberbatch is a master of transformation. From one moment to the next, he keeps the audience at distance, amuses it or touches it.
Jennifer Jason Leigh gave an amazing portrait of a mother who gave up on herself and her own flesh and blood, seeking escape in the bottom of a glass of alcohol or a hippie community. It sounds so cliché and it is, but it’s foremost heartbreaking.
Hugo Weaving probably has a burden to carry since he’s been the most unsympathetic virus ever played in the history of cyberpunk. But he’s managed to appear even more unlovable on Patrick Melrose. Which means that the job is pretty well done.
Fictions depicting child abuse and the excessive usage of drugs due to PTSD are whether simple to make, nor simple to watch.
Big Little Lies showed it’s possible to tiptoe elegantly around the heavy topic of domestic abuse, without caricaturing the tormentor or its victim. The daily terror one of the main characters has to endure, is evoked gradually to the audience. So is the horror the character of Patrick has to endure as a kid.
Patrick Melrose took ownership of the power and heartbreak inherent to that kind of biography. It let the audience swallow the truth it has already known. We can’t help ourselves but grieve on his inability of finding a way to comfort his inner dispaired child, who’s been damaged for life.
Patrick Melrose is one of my series highlights of 2018. I stumbled upon it without expecting a miracle and I still am choking up on it.
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