UK TV review: State of the Union
Ivan Radford | On 29, Sep 2019Reading time: 2 mins
“It sounds like you’re trying. I am. Well, don’t.”
That’s the sound of a relationship gone wrong in BBC Two’s hysterical State of the Union. But the brilliance of this delightfully funny, wonderfully heartfelt, enjoyably prickly comedy is that the relationship may not have gone wrong at all. It might be in the process of going wrong or maybe even going right. You watch with a grin and a hand in your mouth as one couple’s marriage crumbles – while they attempt to rebuild it at the same time.
The premise is inspired, as we drop in on them every week for 10 minutes before their go their marital therapist – a brief chat in the pub that, it soon becomes obvious, covers far more ground than they do in their actual session.
Nick Hornby pens the 10-minute bursts with the kind of honesty and wit you’d expect from the Fever Pitch and About a Boy writer, with each episode delivering a revelation about what brought them together, what they were like while together and what has since pulled them apart. Each revelation sees them take a step forward in their relationship – while also pushing them several feet back.
At the helm, Stephen Frears brings an agility and brevity that captures endless telling details in the shortest of time-frames. He positions his camera with an unobtrusive intimacy, allowing to see multiple sides of the fallout in the most natural way possible.
Chris O’Dowd and Rosamund Pike Play the unhappy couple – Louise and Tom – and they sink their teeth into the bite-sized morsels with relish. O’Dowd is full of immaturity and tragedy, while Pike conveys unhappiness and frustration, both of them balancing their regrets, secrets, resentments and fears with razor-sharp comic timing and – this is the kicker – a huge dose of feeling that ensures we’re always rooting for the happiest outcome, whatever that may be.
State of the Union is available as a box set on BBC iPlayer.