‘Us’ looks at a dissolving marriage without being maudlin

A married couple on the verge of a breakup decide to go ahead with a European vacation with their moody teenage son in the two-episode production of “Us” on Masterpiece. The first episode airs Sunday, June 20, 2021, at 9 pm on WGCU PBS. The second episode airs next Sunday, June 27, at 9 pm.

                Paris, Venice and Barcelona are the backdrop of the story, adapted from David Nicholls’ Booker Prize-nominated novel.

                The show aired first in the U.K., where critics deemed it “hard to resist” (The Guardian) and “funny and touching and acutely observed” (The Independent). The latter further noted its escapist value, as  “a vision of paradise, filmed before lockdown, a continent of trains and restaurants and museums where no character ever says ‘epidemiologist’ [or] ‘quarantine.’”

                The story opens in suburban Britain, with Douglas and Connie 20 years into their marriage. He is a left-brain type — a scientist — organized, numerical, and obsessively rational. Meanwhile, she is an artist with her right brain firing on all cylinders— visual, creative, unconventional. Out of the blue one night, she wakes up Douglas to announce, “I’ve been thinking about leaving. I think our marriage might be over.”

                It’s news to Douglas, who has been blindly contented. He immediately decides to change his ways in order to change her mind. She agrees that they should at least go ahead with their planned European holiday, designed to introduce art-school-bound son Albie to the glories of continental culture. At seventeen, he is not exactly thrilled to be doing the tourist beat with his parents.

Yet all three embark on a grand tour—three weeks, six countries, twelve cities—that is less about museums, monuments, and cafes than how family members can’t help driving each other over the edge.

                In the first episode, Connie tells Douglas she wants to end their 20-year marriage, but not before they take a European vacation with Albie, their rebellious teenage son.In the second, Douglas is searching for Albie in Venice and makes a new friend, Freja. Later, he lands in jail. Back in England, Connie wonders what’s going on.

                Both episodes re-air after their premieres. For show dates and times, go to wgcu.org/tvschedules.


Author: Dayna Harpster