Netflix UK TV review: Living With Yourself
Ivan Radford | On 18, Oct 2019
Paul Rudd. Always likeable. Consistently funny. Probably immortal. If you were going to pick one person to clone, the Ant-Man, Anchorman and I Love You, Man star would arguably be top of your list. Netflix’s new high-concept series Living with Yourself, then, is a pretty safe bet: it stars Paul Rudd and Paul Rudd, as we watch a failing ad man inadvertently get himself cloned, leading to all manner of life-colliding shenanigans.
Rudd plays Miles, a married loser who has lost his drive and interest in life, work and even his wife, Kate (Aisling Bea). A spa treatment that claims to clean his DNA, though, turns out to be a secretly illegal cloning programme, and Miles winds up with two of himself – only the other one a little bit better than he is.
If the idea sounds familiar, that’s because it is: doppelgänger and clones have been around for centuries. From the moment the duo first meet, a familiar farcical chaos ensues, as they fight each other in the downstairs hallway, attempting not to alert Kate. Trying to keep Miles 2.0 a secret from her, and from Miles’ coworkers – even as Miles uses Miles 2.0 to get brownie points in both departments – is the time-honoured approach to the absurd comedy of the situation, but Living with Yourself aims more for drama than for laughs.
It’s a decision that could easily underwhelm, but it makes Living with Yourself a more substantial piece of TV. During the show’s eight episodes, creator Timothy Greenberg delves into such topics as identity and relationships with a serious face. If familiarity breeds contempt, can a new version of you alleviate it? Can someone who’s lacking actual lived-in experience, regardless of DNA matching, actually fill an emotional hole?
Greenberg’s other major choice is to make sure that we relive each event from different perspectives, jumping back and forth in time to produce an occasionally overly intricate mosaic of overlapping accounts. While switching between Miles and Miles 2.0 is to be expected, a more welcome surprise is Aisling Bea’s Kate getting an episode almost to herself, as we rewind to see everything through her eyes.
That episode emerges as one of the best in the whole series, as it not only gives the brilliant Bea something more fleshed out to deal with, but also highlights the unseen frustrations behind Miles’ marriage-gone-wrong that a less thoughtful screenplay would overlook. Bea sinks her teeth into the thorny questions of fidelity, trust and seeing your other half afresh, balancing sarcastic, withering quips with a sincere uncertainty over what’s happening to her husband.
Rudd, though, is the star of the show, as he manages to create two entirely different, yet eerily similar, versions of the same person: there’s the brow-beaten, tired Miles and the alert, artistic and energetic Miles 2.0. Rudd’s great as the husband who appears dishevelled and lacks any form of confidence – a performance that’s slumming it more than we’ve ever seen from him before. He’s equally great as the newcomer to this marriage, grinning, joking and intuitively understanding everyone else he meets.
That he does this without any CGI trickery is really quite stunning. The standout moments are the ones where Rudd and Rudd are in the same room, reacting to anything thrown at them, from dialogue to props – one of them looks quizzically at everything, while the other is naive with a wide-eyed boyishness. With Rudd’s pinpoint comic timing out in full force, to see both of him jointly reminisce about shared memories or receive life-changing news in different ways is worth tuning in for alone.
Which brings us back to the lack of jokes. The relative absence of humour takes Living with Yourself away from Multiplicity territory and into waters not dissimilar to The One I Love, another thought-provoking indie meditating on what makes people who they are. That means a more challenging second half of the series, as it broaches more and more complicated concepts. If there’s a risk of the downbeat musings becoming too frustrating, Living with Yourself’s 30-minute length for each episode (more typical of a comedy) ensures that things stay light and fast-paced – even though it has the side effect of the ending (and a subplot involving an advertising client) feeling slightly unresolved.
With Rudd, Rudd and Bea on top form, though, Living with Yourself remains an ambitious, enjoyable piece that is worth sticking with to the end. Best of all, with a runtime of just four hours in total, you won’t have to clone yourself to get through it.
Living With Yourself: Season 1 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.