Did we like it?
An elegant, well-written drama that acutely explored the contrasts of people trapped in a relationship at both ends of the scale.
What was good about it?
• With just four characters of note and set in a tranquil, isolated Spanish villa, Aftersun would need to have some sharp and perceptive dialogue not to mention believable and engaging characters. Fortunately, it had both in spades.
• Sarah Parish and Peter Capaldi were excellent as Sue and Jim, a couple celebrating their 20th marriage anniversary who had been bought a holiday in Spain by their grown-up children. However, it was soon apparent they had grown apart and now had little in common with the children having flown the nest.
• The way that Sue and Jim were tossed together with a young couple in the first flush of love, and how Esther (Anna Madeley) and Felipe (Juan Pablo Di Pace) immediately showed up how sterile their marriage had become. While the teenagers frolicked around the swimming pool they shared, Sue peered at their passion adoringly while Jim sat grumpily in his chair annoyed at the disruption of his staid status quo.
• But as the story unfolded, the format that owed far more to a play than a usual TV drama, began to reap real dividends. It soon became apparent that Sue and Juan had far more in common with each other than their partners, and likewise for Jim and Esther. There then followed a sequence of touching scenes in which Sue and Jim experienced the pangs of regret for having married so young and thus missed out on the freedom of youth that was being waved in their faces by the extravagant antics of Esther and Juan.
• Yet the script was also skilful enough to perform a 180 degree pivot so that we also got to see Esther and Juan’s perspective. Because of Esther’s poor Spanish, Juan had mistakenly agreed to marry her; and by observing how Sue and Jim’s marriage was difficult enough even with mutual affection, he decided to flee from Esther in the night.
• Sue’s grimacing disapproval when Esther reached for her acoustic guitar and began to strum. The use of acoustic guitars should be carefully monitored by the UN and any unauthorised use of such guitars by untalented, unschooled amateurs, especially at music festivals, should result in the imposition of severe sanctions. If such warnings are ignored, and the musical miscreant also starts to sing vague, improvised lyrics to their dirgey ditty then execution is the next step.
What was bad about it?
• The portrait of a typical British couple abroad was quite dull and stereotypical. Jim preferred to spend all day indoors out of the sun with his doorstep books on the Nazis and Stalin, while he paraded about in embarrassing shorts and sandals with socks. And when he removed his dressing gown when going out for a swim he managed to repulse the pulchritudinous Esther with his body that looked like it was cast from glaring alabaster.
• Sue, meanwhile, lazed for too long on her sun lounger in the swimming pool and had to be taken to hospital for sun burn. Alas, this is a well-trodden path for Brits abroad comedies, the funniest of which was when DI Beach had to walk around wrapped up like an Egyptian mummy to protect his charred skin.