Marriage and more

Published September 3, 2022

A promotional still from the BBC television show Marriage, featuring Nicola Walker and Sean Bean

I recently finished watching the new series from Stefan Goleszewski on the BBC called Marriage. It got mixed reviews because it’s steeped in the trademark of Goleszewski’s work - understated, quiet, and calm alongside real, moving and insightful.

Previously, I’ve enjoyed Stefan’s first breakthrough Him & Her, although I have tried to revisit that before and found it just a bit too cutting. The sister is too mean, the neighbour too easy a target. Which is on me for being too sensitive but is also a shame because I love Russell Tovey enormously.

Then, of course, there was Mum which was three series’ of pure heaven featuring the delightful Lesley Manville as Cathy, a character mourning the loss of her husband after a long illness and dealing with her son’s new girlfriend with a supreme level of tolerance. This one I have revisited time and again, and I adore it. The slow burn between Cathy and her long time friend Michael, alongside the hyper-activity of the younger couple is a wonder to see and very well observed.

So then on to Marriage, a four part series featuring Nicola Walker (who I have yet to see in anything bad) and Sean Bean (who has traditionally been great up until his recent mis-step on intimacy co-ordinators). This one is even more extreme in the slowness of the pace, leaning into pauses, just letting the characters grow and giving them space to breathe. The first episode opens on a small niggly row about potatoes vs chips, the kind that anyone in a long term relationship can understand, but also includes a scene where the pair take it in turns to greave, without judgement or fear.

Some people have found the pace too slow, and I can understand that. Others have found the dialogue difficult to understand, Bean in particular being very mumbly. I long ago gave in to the joy of subtitles wherever possible so didn’t find it a problem, but the mumble has been a growing trend in TV that doesn’t show any signs of abating.

The show reminded me of Roger & Val Have Just Got In, which featured Dawn French and Alfred Molina as a long term niggly couple who love each other endlessly but are also dealing with the humdrum mundanities of life in their own unique way. Again, that’s a show I watch over and over and find something new in every time. I don’t know that I’ll watch Marriage endlessly, but I’d be very curious if it got a second series what is next in store for the couple. Whether it’s groundbreaking or just another row about chips, I’m here for it.

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