When Stephen Frears (Quiz) and Nick Hornby (Brooklyn) joined together to cooperate on SundanceTV’s State of the Union, a deliciously piquant micro-expose of marriage, it was almost three years ago that the world learned about it.
Within ten 10-minute episodes, they unflinchingly probed the stumbling marriage of newlyweds Louise (Rosamund Pike) and Tom (Chris O’Dowd) in the heart of London. Their parts showed the couple pregaming in various moods before their weekly couples therapy sessions, even though they were geographically separated for a variety of reasons.
One of life’s most difficult tightrope feats, a healthy marriage, proved to be an enthralling and mesmerizingly voyeuristic exercise in investigating the delicate underbellies of one of life’s most captivating tightrope acts: marriage.
Frears and Hornby return for a second season (which premiered on Valentine’s Day, no less) with a brand-new pair, Americans Scott and Ellen, as the central characters (Brendan Gleeson and Patricia Clarkson).
They’ve been married for 30 years and have raised a family together, but now that they’re empty-nesters, their differences are worsened by Scott’s complacency and Ellen’s desire to engage in an unconstrained final act.
Not content to rest on their creative laurels, Frears and Hornby have maintained the episode’s concise length while expanding the storytelling constraints by not only shifting the setting to a hip, Gen-Z coffee shop—the ghastly named Mouthfeel Cafe—but also by allowing for interactions between the supporting cast, including the cafe owner, Jay (Esco Jouléy), Ellen’s friend, and their couple’s therapists.
This external commentary serves to generate conversation between the pair over the series’ ten episodes, which cover topics such as the use of “woke” pronouns to the lingering effects of Scott’s infidelity 20 years previously.
It’s a winner as a concept, and it wisely relies on the strength of its performers to pique our interest and allow it to closely reveal the exposed and broken bits between couples. The witty banter between Pike and O’Dowd made you root for them despite their flaws and mistakes, and this was especially true in the case of Pike.
With Gleeson and Clarkson, they are a pair who has arrived at a predetermined outcome. After years of being frustrated by Scott’s entrenched interests and myopic attitudes, Ellen has reached a breaking point, and she is more interested in pursuing a spiritual life as a fledgling Quaker and social activist than she is in being married to someone uninterested in what the future holds.
Even though the marriage’s final ending is more destined from the start, the show’s tone takes on a completely other tones. This is a bit shocking. However, congratulations to Hornby and Frears for demonstrating a clear desire to dispense with preconceptions by following an overly similar course.
The cast’s increase for Season 2 sacrifices the targeted intimacy of Season 1, which was a major advantage for the format and the narrative experiment itself, but it’s pleasant not to know where the friction or controversy will come from this time around because it’s unpredictable.
The only thing that kept our attention away from Louise and Tom’s conversations, moods, and attentiveness were the diversions that occurred outside of their tavern environment. Scott and Ellen, on the other hand, have a third wheel in the form of Jay, a non-binary observer turned friend who challenges them to go beyond their preconceptions and biases regarding sexuality and contemporary representations of self.
Many minutes of various episodes are devoted to the three interacting rather than just the couple, denying some love situations the opportunity to breathe. And those format adjustments give the dialogue a more rapid-fire vibe as if the cast is aware that they only have a limited amount of time to get everything they need to say out.
Despite these difficulties, it’s nevertheless intriguing to witness Gleeson and Clarkson give this collapsing marriage with a palpable sense of history, exasperation, and elegance during their slide, which finally proves to be tragic and realistic.
Clarkson, in particular, is magnificently patient and wistful as a woman coming to terms with the idea of humanely separating from her life partner to become the woman she knows she needs to be today to move forward.
Lost Soul Aside – What We Know So Far
Peacemaker Season 2: Details You Need To Know Right Now!
Lords of the Fallen 2 – It Could Become More Popular Than Dark Souls!
You can’t help but be mesmerized as she grapples with making an essentially selfish decision for the first time in her life, nearly squirming in her skin as she comes to terms with her choices. And then, on the other hand, there’s a quiet triumph in observing her press Scott for more information and finally convincing him to be honest with her and himself for the first time in their relationship.
Thankfully, Gleeson’s “uncomplicated” and frequently obnoxious Scott isn’t the main antagonist of the film. In addition to being a powerful character due to his uncertainty and eventual recognition of how his obstinacy brought him to this point, he is also a man who has profited from decades of luxury is not being challenged by Ellen.
Having completed another season of complicated human frailties and cathartic confession, State of the Union continues to be an intriguing look into the psychology of marriage. The facts of Scott and Ellen’s position may not be relevant to the viewer’s own life, but there are plenty of emotions between the two that is relatable and reverberate as a result of Gleeson and Clarkson’s portrayals of the two characters.
Even with such brief occurrences, there will be plenty of words spoken and moments expressed that will remain in your memory long after they have ended.