TV Reviews: Trigonometry, Or Loving Life In Rome

May 16, 2021

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Trigonometry / Directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari and Stella Corradi / 16LSN

There is a lot of accessible currency for writers when the subject is a romantic relationship involving more than two people. There is the obvious taboo element and its sexual frissons, and just as predictably, there is the conflict that comes with the near impossibility of the dynamic between all three partners being based on equal shares of power, influence, desire for each other and the ability to meet each others’ needs. You Me Her takes the glossier, more mainstream, Hollywood approach to this theme and suffers from its characters becoming ever more unlikeable as their challenges mount up. Trigonometry has a more considered approach that sacrifices none of the drama or the sexual tension. The existing couple at its centre are normal middle class types struggling to make ends meet. The lodger they take on to make a little extra money is equally authentic. There are different nations, races and language groups represented, without the story ever feeling designed to suit some sort of demographic ideal. And the interactions feel similarly real – exciting when there’s novelty value; awkwardness when established expectations intrude; heartbreaking pathos when progress seems impossible. There is sweetness and warmth to go with good writing and acting – an adult drama that doesn’t equate mature themes with soft porn or foul-mouthed toilet humour.


Love Life / Created by Sam Boyd / 16LSN

Anna Kendrick is a charismatic actress with plenty of range, but she’s probably still thought of most often in her Pitch Perfect-type persona – a capable geek with a penchant for edgy retorts. As Darby Carter, the central character in Love Life, she is both more of an everyman and (possibly as a result) less likeable. The concept behind the series involves following Darby through her search for her ultimate romantic partner, a quest broken into instalments as she connects with and then departs from a number of suitors along the way. The issue is that, though there is room to use a performer of Kendrick’s talents to make Darby somehow extraordinary – in her insight, or compassion, or humour, say – the writers of this series fail to do so. The young woman is frustratingly hackneyed, prone to same superficial concerns as a million screen teenagers and college kids – will some guy like her, and can she like herself if he doesn’t? That many of her boyfriends seem like considerably less than premium human beings makes it all the more annoying, with the major mitigating factor being that it is possible to understand and relate to the character’s fear of loneliness as a driver powerful enough to overwhelm her common sense. There is still enough quality in the production values and the snappier dialogue to make the show watchable, but it could have been much more than what it is.


Rome / Created by Bruno Heller, William J MacDonald and John Milius / 18VSNL

A richly detailed retelling of historical events beginning with Julius Caesar’s rise to the supreme seat of Roman power extending to the latter stages of the lives of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, Rome has as its source material events – battles, political intrigue, romances and more – that hardly need embellishment to make them entertaining to television viewers. And this interpretation works well because it doesn’t take too many liberties with what has been well documented and keeps its embellishments both tasteful (inasmuch as a lot of what the Romans got up to on a day to day basis could be deemed to merit that concept) and useful in driving the plot forward in a way that makes the series compelling TV. The historical record provides plenty of spoiler alerts, but the relationships and the way they’re developed onscreen by an excellent cast (including Ciaran Hinds, James Purefoy, Lindsay Duncan, Ray Stevenson and Kevin McKidd) make that a plus, as knowing where a set of strategies is leading makes the folly or courage of the protagonists’ actions easy to invest in. And more intellectually satisfying than the fantasy landscapes of, say Game Of Thrones, which could be seen as the art mimicking Rome’s life.

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