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The Bob’s Burgers Movie

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Bob’s Burgers might be one of the luckiest animated shows of the entire 2010s [currently streaming on Disney+]. Starting out with its okay-but-nothing-all-that-special first season, and its main cast full of Family Guy analogues (shlubby father, housewife with a thing for singing, diabolical schemer for the youngest child, etc.), it was mercifully given the time it needed to figure itself out and find its lane as the character-driven serving of absurdist dad humour that has allowed it to thrive for an additional ten seasons. And now going full Simpsons with a cinematic feature (with a plot that coincidentally also involves a sinkhole), which thankfully carries over everything that makes the show so much fun.

Not only are the Belcher family all as charmingly attention-deficit as ever, the way that their characters are built in the film works both as a continuation of the original show and as a potential introduction for new viewers.

There are references to their past escapades, sure, but with the steps taken in their development (especially with Kristen Schaal as Louise, the aforementioned schemer), what is on-screen sets up and pays off the drama and even ramps up the emotion without feeling like past knowledge is required for the full impact. Hell, not knowing why hunky zombies show up all of a sudden might just boost the comedic value.

Speaking of which, those with a pun allergy might have difficulties getting into this (ditto the original show), but credit to the writers [Loren Bouchard & Nora Smith] and actors for having as close to perfect timing as you can get for these sorts of zingers. With only a scant couple of exceptions, nothing is lingered on to the point of explaining the joke, and if said one-liner didn’t land, there’s about five others coming in right behind it that probably will. It’s all very chuckle-worthy and shows that making comedy out of characters intentionally distracting themselves, works best when it isn’t needlessly protracted. Lessons should be learnt from this.

But this isn’t just the same stuff from the show; the visuals have been properly upgraded to make this cinema worthy. Bento Box Entertainment et al. bring Futurama levels of detail to the animation. This is easily some of the smoothest 2D animation of the last several years, and it really pops during the musical numbers. What’s more, this 2.5D upscaling never clashes with the ‘chinless wonder’ character designs, pulling off the South Park trick of improving without making its own foundation conspicuous.

The Bob’s Burgers Movie is everything that makes the show worth binging, combined with everything needed to make a transition to the big screen worthwhile. There’s nothing too strenuous going on, even with its more emotional moments, and with its high gag ratio, it’s an ideal wind-down movie to kick back, relax, and bite into.

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Mothering Sunday

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French director Eve Husson (Girls of the Sun) defies expectations in her sensual and poetic film Mothering Sunday. What at first appears to be a stuffy British period piece becomes a deeply affecting examination of grief, class, rebirth, and reinvention.

In 1924, England is still awash with grief over those lives lost in WWI. Jane Fairchild (Odessa Young) is a servant at Beechwood House owned by the Nivens who lost their sons in the war. Mr Niven (Colin Firth) is a pleasant but fragile presence whose stoicism exists to prop up the overwhelming heartache of his wife, Clarrie (Olivia Colman). Clarrie has become distant to the point of near non-existence and her former joy for life has been snuffed out.

Jane, who was given up for adoption at birth, is a “constant watcher” of the Nivens and the other wealthy families they dolefully socialise with. One family in particular, the Sheringhams also share the loss of two sons, with the remaining son Paul (Josh O’Connor) becoming a substitute child for all, and a last symbol of hope in their profound grief.

On Mother’s Day, the respective families decide to have a picnic which acts as a double celebration for the upcoming nuptials between Paul and his social equal Emma Hobday (Emma D’Arcy). The match is a loveless one as Emma was in love with one of the young set who perished in the fighting.

On this day, Paul and Jane, who have been carrying on an extended affair, will meet and make love one last time. The nature of their affair appears somewhat hard to pin down, but within it, Jane insists they meet as equals. The bright morning that envelopes Jane as she bicycles to Paul’s manor house fills the frame with the promise of pleasure and abandonment. Jane’s long hair let loose from the formal braids she wears whilst working, streams behind her.

Entering Paul’s darkened house, the young couple emit a light that speaks of life within the tomb of grieving. They make love and freely study each other’s bodies. The pure sensuality of their lovemaking is captured by Jamie Ramsay’s exquisite cinematography, which is similarly arresting and lush throughout the film.

Paul leaves to attend the picnic and Jane remains in the house exploring its grandeur whilst naked. This small act of rebellion is emblematic of who Jane is. Not to be defined by her class or position, Jane is something more – a born writer who will manifest her destiny regardless of the circumstances she was born into. In some ways, she is freer than the gentry that she served, who are tied to their class and the expectations that come from that.

A subtle comparison Husson makes is between Jane examining herself naked in Paul’s bedroom mirror, and Emma who uses her mirror to make up herself into a pristine vision of upper-class beauty and fashion. Emma is trapped by societal expectations that Jane wilfully defies.

Although the narrative is weighted in the events of 1924, the portrait of Jane is more encompassing. Working in a bookstore, she meets a young philosopher named Donald (Sope Dirisu) who will become her lover and eventually her husband. In the format of a narrative within a narrative, we see Jane at three distinct stages of her life: her time at Beechwood House, her relationship with Donald in her middle years, and finally in her dotage as a feted novelist played by the great Glenda Jackson.

Adapted from Graham Swift’s novella of the same name by the tremendously talented writer Alice Birch (Lady Macbeth), Mothering Sunday is a tone-poem about the life of a woman who is able to rise from loss through her art. Jane Fairchild, as Clarrie Niven clumsily attests was “comprehensively bereaved at birth” because she never had a family. Jane epitomises the self-made woman who has learned to live on her own terms.

The performances in the film are genuinely excellent. Odessa Young proves herself to be one of the best emerging talents that has come out of Australia. Josh O’Connor emits the same sensual energy as he did in Francis Lee’s marvellous God’s Own Country. Screen veterans Firth and Colman do not disappoint in their small but pivotal roles. As a supporting character, Sope Dirisu (His House) is stellar and rightfully deserves his place as one of Britain’s most impressive contemporary actors.

A film that could have easily fallen into the trap of sentimental stuffiness is given such a lush and evocative treatment by Husson that it defies the conventions that many British period pictures succumb to. At its heart, Mothering Sunday is an exquisite portrait of an unconventional woman whose self-determination leads her through a life, although not always easy, that is defined by her will. The film exposes the audience to the tragedies and triumphs of life that exist in both the smallest moments and the biggest – it is a film that shows that melodrama is distinctly more multi-layered than it has been commonly regarded in recent times, and certainly very potent.

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Night Sky

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Laced with intrigue, the new science-fiction drama series, Night Sky, follows an array of characters, centring on an elderly couple, Irene and Franklin York, played by Oscar winners Sissy Spacek and J.K. Simmons.

The Yorks lead a simple life in their quiet hometown in Illinois. Except, their mundane exterior is not quite as it seems. Many years ago, Irene and Franklin discovered an ancient chamber concealed in their garden shed, with the ability to transport them to an observer station, overlooking a desolate alien planet with an exquisite night sky. However, this mysterious chamber turns out to be much more than either of them had initially imagined.

The pair have been coming here for years to sit in awe of the planet’s beauty and ponder the possibilities of its existence. But this shared secret that has long bonded their union is now becoming a dividing factor in the Yorks’ marriage. As Irene’s health is steadily declining, Franklin suspects that these frequent trips are beginning to take a toll.

On one occasion when visiting ‘The Stars’, as the Yorks have dubbed it, Irene finds a bloody and unconscious stranger in the hidden chamber. Shocked at his appearance, the Yorks bring him home. Once awake, the perplexing young man introduces himself as Jude. He claims to suffer from amnesia and have no recollection of his former life. While Franklin is suspicious of the newcomer’s inexplicable existence, Irene is reminded of her late son Michael and embraces him with open arms, and proceeds to help Jude with his pursuit of answers about his hazy past.

In the second episode, the series takes an unusual shift that will have you wondering if you’re still watching the same show. In rural Argentina, we are introduced to Stella (Julieta Zylberberg) and Toni (Roco Hernández), a mother and daughter who live an extremely secluded lifestyle. As Toni comes of age and enters high school, she begins to desire more from her sheltered upbringing. This creates a tumultuous relationship between her and mum as Stella battles to keep Toni unaware of their family’s secret legacy and why they must guard an ancient chapel on their land. However, upon the arrival of a shady figure from Stella’s past, she is forced to introduce her daughter into a world of turbulence and danger.

The stories run parallel as the show continues, before inevitability converging in later episodes.

Spacek and Simmons give Night Sky its gravity, their onscreen partnership demonstrating a warm affection for one another. Spacek in particular shines as Irene, conveying a tender presence in every scene, while Simmons brings a vulnerability to his portrayal of Franklin. Kiah McKirnan plays the Yorks’ concerned granddaughter and Adam Bartley plays the sceptical neighbour, but these characters feel like unnecessary filler against the Yorks and mother-daughter duo Stella and Toni.

While Night Sky has an alluring sense of mystery, the sluggish pace and scattered tone, switching between the Yorks in Illinois and Stella and Toni in Argentina, make it difficult to view the series as one cohesive story and not two totally different shows. Also, Night Sky’s focus on relationships and themes of love and loss overshadow the hollow sci-fi plot – a McGuffin if you will. Although it takes its time to build to any real tension, Simmons and Spacek continue to keep audiences engaged.

Performance driven and not particularly ground-breaking, the slow burn sci-fi drama Night Sky relies on its drawcards of Simmons and Spacek to foster its appeal, and thankfully, the two seasoned actors make the trip worthwhile.

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Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers

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In the delightfully hyperactive Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, animated anthropomorphic critters respond to the soul-crushing slap of Hollywood.

Life has been tough for Chip (John Mulaney) and Dale (Andy Samberg) in the thirty years since they last appeared on the television series of the same name. Having fallen out over a desire to go solo (in true showbiz style), the once inseparable besties have gone on to live separate lives; the sensible Chip opting for a white-collar career in insurance – the major joy of his quotidian existence coming in the form of his Clifford-like pooch, and the buzzing Dale – cosmetically enhancing himself to 3D to attract more jobs in Hollywood – making his living, how all former stars do, navigating the convention circuit.

Reunited following the disappearance of their former colleague Monterey Jack (a fair dinkum Eric Bana), the at-odds Chip and Dale set out on a noir-esque adventure to save their friend, encountering a slew of familiar faces and pop-culture references.

While parallels to Robert Zemeckis’ 1988 classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit are apparent, the developments in CG technology offer new territory for screenwriters Dan Gregor and Doug Mand to explore. The ‘meta’ Hollywood practice of pandering to audience nostalgia doesn’t make an appearance in DnD: RR, with director Akiva Schaffer (of The Lonely Island fame) using call-backs to contemporary characters – both recent and new and of differing animation styles – to create a hearty richness in the film’s absurdist humour. (That said, some of the references will time stamp the film into the now, potentially placing a shelf-life on the jokes.)

The film plays to both Mulaney and Samberg’s strengths, allowing their comedic styles – the restless sounding Mulaney contrasting with Samberg’s zaniness – to coalesce into a buddy-cop pairing loaded with charm.

This is further highlighted in the film’s star-studded voice cast, with the likes of comedy heavy-hitters J.K. Simmons, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett and Keegan-Michael Key filling out the principal roles. (Exactly who they play is a mystery best served cold.) The film moves at an up-tempo pace, making for an engrossing spectacle charged with playful action sequences and a humour that never feels inappropriate, particularly for the littlies in the room.

When animated characters come into contact with humans, the film becomes less animated on two fronts. While the talented KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk) does her darndest fitting into Chip and Dale’s world, her role as a police officer working to rebuild her reputation is unfortunately written too straight-faced in a film that otherwise revels in silliness.

Doing to IP cross-pollination what Scream did for horror, Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers rides high on its buoyant sense of play and intelligence. It is a blast from the past and a time capsule worth opening.

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Australian, Documentary, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

With the modern proliferation and commoditization of cinema and film culture, it can be easy to take for granted just how radical the artform can be. Whether it’s the capturing of the real world through the all-seeing eye of the camera lens or telling stories that exist beyond the confines of the viewer’s world, film is important. With Ablaze, the debut documentary from Tiriki Onus (co-directed by Hunt Angels’ Alec Morgan), that importance is brought into the larger conversation involving Indigenous Australian history, and where the two cultures bravely intersected.

As all good documentaries should, its genesis comes from a deeply personal need to learn more. Armed with a suitcase full of photos, Tiriki sets out across Australia to discover the story of the man who took them: William Onus, Aboriginal impresario, civil rights activist, and Tiriki’s grandfather.

Through the honorable but never outwardly doting perspective of Tiriki, William Onus’s career is framed as that of an inspired man with ambition to burn and a pointed understanding of the power of art. Kindled by a cinematic appropriation of his people’s cultures, Onus decided that these stories deserved to be told by the people who lived them.

Cries of keeping politics out of art tend to come from those whose environment, culture, and indeed their art, is already catered for by the mainstream consciousness. But for those whose work is acted against by political forces, from ASIO’s secret surveillance of Onus’s overseas work (footage of which is also included, becoming a duel of the film cameras), to an invitation by Walt Disney himself that government forces blocked from being accepted, the mere act of portraying that art becomes an inherently political display.

Splicing together those old photos, interview footage with historians and those who knew Onus personally, and many a film reel taken of the stageplays, films, and TV appearances from the man himself, editor Tony Stevens elevates each artistic practice to a level of equal importance, highlighting art as a powerful force for change.

As is the act of its preservation, onto film reels and canisters and now digital stock. “Pics or it didn’t happen”, so goes the ancient Internet adage, and as Tiriki’s own understanding of his grandfather blossoms like a cloud of black mist, the importance of that discovery becomes much clearer. The proliferation of a culture, as shared through the universal medium of film, is a means by which it can be kept alive; a way of peering back at the numerous attempts at cultural erasure by White Australians, and showing them that they failed to snuff the fire out.

Ablaze is a celluloid tether to the Dreamtime, stretching out to a man who fought long and hard to keep the cultural traditions of his people alive; to ensure that his work is never forgotten. With a reel of cellulose acetate (and its digital equivalent), it is possible to change the world.

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Maigret is one of those fabled detectives who, like Holmes and Poirot, has leapt off the literary page to become a sort of metonym for dogged intelligence and the power of deductive reasoning. The character was the creation of Belgian writer Georges Simenon who lived to a ripe old age and produced dozens of novels. Given the long history, it is not surprising that there have been many adaptations for both the small and big screen.

Now comes another version, this time by seasoned and wily French director Patrice Leconte (Ridicule, Monsieur Hire). Leconte should be the perfect man for the job as he has a great sense of period, loves intricate plots and in-depth studies of human psychology. The casting of one of France’s living legends, Gerard Depardieu as the eponymous sleuth should seal the deal. Sad to report then, the film doesn’t quite live up to its promise.

There is no faulting the sense of period (cars, interiors, costumes) and the artful way in which it is shot (by Yves Angelo), but somehow it never takes flight. There are themes here – the pain of losing a daughter, the sense that peoples’ lives are vulnerable even though they do not know it – but the film remains static, slow and unengaging.

The plot starts as all good detective stories should, with a crime scene and a body. We are also in familiar territory when we realise that the victim is an attractive young woman who may or may not have been mistaken for a lady of the night. Into this mystery lumbers the giant form of Maigret.

In the original books, the detective is described as powerfully built and there is nothing wrong with being imposing. In fact, Depardieu in his lugubrious way fits the bill. However, it is hard not to notice just how big he has become in a way that is almost distracting. He constantly wears a huge raincoat, and you find yourself idly thinking of those circus gags where three small people get inside one coat. You keep waiting for the coat to open and a head to appear waist-height.

As noted, Leconte is a director of great skill and subtlety. Depardieu can be powerful and charismatic when he tries. Some may argue that his performance is interior and designed to show the detective’s inner sorrow (the crimes have resonances with his own personal family tragedy), but in another way it looks as if he is not quite with us.

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Hatching ( (Pahanhautoja)

Horror, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

The best kind of horror operates on two different levels. There’s what’s happening on-screen… and what’s really going on. More than any other sub-genre, horror is capable of highlighting the most grotesque aspects of the human condition, and giving it an equally monstrous visage to show the monstrous within us. In Hatching, the debut feature from Finnish filmmaker Hanna Bergholm, this takes the form of Tinja (performed to perfection by young Siiri Solalinna), a child gymnast whose domestic life is as recognisable as it is horrifying.

Tinja lives in the world that her mother (Sophia Heikkilä) has arranged for all to see. A place of pastel colours, crystal glass, and selfie-sticks, all part of a living production put on to satisfy mother’s need for validation through vlogging. Between Heikkilä’s unnervingly real portrayal and Ilja Rautsi’s biting dialogue, mother’s sociopathic tendencies ring through with perfect clarity in her every action and word. In her world, everything exists solely as it reflects on her.

It’s quite the indictment on social media culture and how it latches onto the more hazardous aspects of the creative process (namely, how unhealthy it is when you treat all things in life as fuel for ‘content’), and Jarkko T. Laine’s cinematography really brings out the domestic darkness in the setting.

But comments on the Internet age seem almost incidental compared to what the film is really driving at: The effects of toxic femininity. Tinja’s mother has poured all of her unrealised ambitions and all her desires for praise into her child, and at her stage of development, it’s the kind of attitude that can take root and grow. So, when Tinja finds herself as the surrogate mother of an abandoned bird egg, a lot of what she has been subjected to is mirrored.

The practical effects by Gustav Hoegen and Conor O’Sullivan are all kinds of gruesome in the best way possible, but the true horror is more than skin-deep. As Tinja wrestles with the trauma she lives with, the secrets she’s been ‘suggested’ to keep, and how much her own identity has been suppressed so that her mother can express hers vicariously, the titular Hatching becomes an agent of her subconscious. A showing of just how much damage she’s suffered, and the damage it can cause in turn. Like mother, like daughter.

Hatching is a harrowing domestic thriller nesting in a visceral genre exercise, externalising some particularly vile behaviour and attitudes and highlighting just how much they can warp us as human beings. It’s an examination of childhood trauma as much as it is a critique of Toddlers & Tiaras-esque trophy parenting, and the revelations of where the two intersect make for chilling material. The film craft on offer here is incredible, and shows Hanna Bergholm as a talented filmmaker on par with Julia Ducournau in bringing out the feminine side of body horror.

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Top Gun: Maverick

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Directed by the late Tony Scott, the original Top Gun is a sweaty slice of classic American cheese. Thanks to charismatic performances from Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards, its infamously queer-coded macho banter and posturing, and one of the most popular soundtracks of the decade, Top Gun‘s status as a beloved pop culture artifact is more than secure.

So secure, in fact, that the sheer idea of making a sequel to it thirty-odd years later could easily become just another notch on Tom Cruise’s vanity project belt, a la 2017’s The Mummy. Thankfully, Maverick not only manages to be quite entertaining, but also surpasses its predecessor.

Building on their past experience with cheeky non-toxic male bonding with firefighting themed Only The Brave, director Joseph Kosinski and co-writer Eric Warren Singer (along with Ehren Kruger) extrapolate the original’s heaviest moment (the fate of Edwards’ Goose) to push the all-time reigning wiseass Maverick into a more paternal role. One that sees him training the best of Top Gun’s best, pushing them into the danger zone, all so that he can stop that past from repeating itself.

Between Cruise’s more contemplative mood, his interactions with Miles Teller as Goose Jr. (aka Rooster), and even the return of the Iceman himself, the film hits a lot harder emotionally while still managing a healthy hit ratio with one-liners. It’s all about the pilot, not the plane, after all.

Don’t get twisted, though, this is far from a toned-down version of the original. If anything, the action scenes here are a testament to just how many advancements have been made in film craft and tech in the interim. Editor Eddie Hamilton and writer/producer Christopher McQuarrie recapture their invigorating work from Mission: Impossible – Fallout, ratcheting up the tension to make the flight scenes and dogfights into proper nail-biters. To say nothing of the entire third act, where anxiety after anxiety gets piled on top of each other to create some of the most breathless and intense pop cinema likely to be found in 2022.

By bulking up the dramatic stakes and the action sequences (the best parts of the original film), Top Gun: Maverick stays true to its roots while taking its predecessor’s iconic aesthetic to new heights, making for a heart-racing and heart-breaking ride in equal turn. Joseph Kosinski has come a long way since Tron: Legacy, and it’s clear that the creative partnership between Cruise and McQuarrie shows no sign of slowing down.

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The Innocents

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Every child is a blessing; That is unless they are a character in a horror film.

From The Omen (1976) to just about every Stephen King adaptation, spooky kids are as much of a staple in horror storytelling as roaring chainsaws and black cats.

Continuing this eerie trope – expressing how youngsters are shaped by their upbringing – is the impressively crafted Norwegian thriller, The Innocents (De uskyldige)

In writer-director Eskil Vogt’s (most notable for co-writing the screenplay for The Worst Person in the World (2021)) cinematic contraceptive, kids are not only magically gifted but are out for blood.

It is holiday time for the children of Norway, with the youngsters who remain at a colourless apartment complex – surrounded by beguiling woodland – coming from households who work the hardest to make ends meet. When Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum) – a nine-year-old with a penchant for outdoors and overalls – and her family arrive, the once unassuming location begins to crack under the suddenly activated supernatural pressures.

Ida’s older sister, Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad), is the most indomitable, with her psychic abilities rivalling that of any character from the MCU. The siblings spend their days exploring the grounds with neighbours Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim) and Benjamin (Sam Ashraf), indulging in light-hearted telekinesis and telepathy (as kids do). It is Benjamin who proves the most high-strung of the bunch, with Vogt correlating his hardships – coming through the form of bullying and abuse at home – with his psychopathic tendencies. It is when he is ridiculed that the playfulness stops, with the film’s antics shifting from playfulness to violent acts of aggression.

Understanding that Benjamin has gone too far, the children unite to thwart his bloody vengeance, using their abilities to dispel whatever innocence the film’s title, ironically, implies they have.

Vogt is a subtle filmmaker that works the long game when it comes to establishing atmosphere. He utilises a subtle score and warm visuals to create a palpable feeling of unease. Even when bones break and the blood spills, Vogt never deviates from this understated delivery. That said, some scenes do struggle under the hammy manner in which powers are executed, with shots of strained faces on screen for arduous periods draining the tension of the scene. Performance wise, Vogt has assembled an impressive cast of actors, with particular praise for the leading sister pairing.

Vogt’s thriller is a sterling example of a harrowing atmosphere at its most subdued. The saying goes that you should never work with children or animals, and The Innocents will have you believe that this is not because of an incapability to follow instruction but to avoid all chances of triggering their supernatural potential.

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Conversations with Friends

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In this nuanced coming-of-age drama, Dublin college students Frances (Alison Oliver) and Bobbi (Sasha Lane) collide with successful established writer Melissa (Jemima Kirke) during an amateur poetry night. Seduced by her enigmatic charm, Frances and Bobbi are quickly drawn into Melissa’s world, and the ensuing entanglement between the students, their alluring new acquaintance, and her soft-spoken, far more reserved husband Nick (Joe Alwyn) blurs lines between friendship, sex, and infatuation.

Based on the debut novel of Irish author Sally Rooney (Normal People), the story encapsulates the intricacies of intimacy, navigating those first adult relationships that can feel so fleeting yet leave a mark on you for the rest of your life. Screenwriter Alice Birch reworks Rooney’s words (as she did with Normal People) into something a little less internalised and more suited to the screen, offering an honest portrayal of a relationship between two characters whose leading trait is an inability to verbalise outside of their art — a dynamic that plays well on the page, but no doubt a significant challenge to translate for series.

In her first onscreen role, Oliver carries much of the emotional weight. Frances is an introverted character who struggles to communicate outside of her poetry, often dragged along by the tide of her confident, charismatic best friend/ex-lover Bobbi. Both Oliver and Lane give strong performances, the former toeing the line between awkward and endearing in a way that makes the chemistry between Frances and Alwyn’s Nick not just believable but palpable.

As Frances and Nick connect over their inability to forge connections, their most open and honest conversations are their tastefully shot if frequently occurring sex scenes. Meanwhile, Bobbi and Melissa dance around each other off-screen. The lack of screentime afforded to Kirke and Lane in the first six episodes of the series is truly a shame, what little interaction we do see between them entertains in a way Alwyn and Oliver’s slow-building and stilted romance never quite manages to capture.

The glacial pacing of the series may prove to be a struggle for some viewers, but ultimately Conversations with Friends is an intriguing exploration of ever-changing levels of intimacy — understated, introspective, yet engaging enough to make it worth the wait.