Brilliant, Sharp and Dark. Much more than a portrait of addiction, is a deep reflection about the terrifying consequences of abuse, certainly if it comes from the architype: Your parents
Patrick Melrose is a 2018 five-part drama miniseries starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular Melrose. The show is based on semi-autobiographical novels about Britain's upper class by Edward St Aubyn.
Following the death of his father in the 1980s, Englishman Patrick Melrose attempts to overcome his addictions and demons rooted in abuse by his father and negligent mother.
It was announced in February 2017 that Benedict Cumberbatch would star in and produce a television adaptation of Edward St Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose book series that would air on Showtime in the United States and Sky Atlantic in the United Kingdom. David Nicholls wrote the five episodes of the series, with Edward Berger directing. In July, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Hugo Weaving joined as Patrick’s mother and father, and Anna Madeley was cast as Patrick’s wife. Allison Williams and Blythe Danner joined in August 2017, with filming having begun by October in Glasgow.
The first trailer debuted in April 2018, with the series set to premiere on May 12 on Showtime.The series will consecutively stream new episodes on CraveTV in Canada. It's showing on Sky Atlantic in the UK.
1 "Bad News" Edward Berger David Nicholls May 12, 2018
In 1982, Patrick Melrose is dispatched to New York City to retrieve the ashes of his father David. He decides to quit using drugs but finds himself unable to stop as he recollects his father's abuse and encounters associates of his father. Patrick resorts to using heroin, alcohol, and other drugs and finally breaks down with a botched suicide attempt. Patrick places a call to his friend Johnny telling him he wishes to finally give up drugs.
2 "Never Mind" Edward Berger David Nicholls May 19, 2018
While going through heroin withdrawal, Patrick recalls a traumatic day he experienced as an 8 year old while on holiday in France with his parents. His father David is manipulative and cruel, his mother Eleanor an alcoholic who is terrified of her husband. It is revealed through a series of flashbacks that the young Patrick was abused by his father, while his mother more or less acquiesced.
3 "Some Hope" Edward Berger David Nicholls May 26, 2018
It's 1990 and Patrick has been invited to go to a party of the upper class where Princess Margaret will be present. We see a Patrick who is trying to put his substance abuse in the past and has help from his friend Johnny who is in a therapy group. At the party, we find Princess Margaret behaving unpleasantly due to her social status and humiliating the French ambassador. She also dismisses the hostess' daughter from meeting her and this reminds Patrick of himself as a boy when his father wouldn't allow his mother to talk to him during dinner in France. Patrick later reveals to Johnny that he was sexually abused by his father for a number of years as a young boy. The episode ends with Patrick meeting the drug dealer Chilly Willy, who we as the audience met in the first episode as the drug dealer who passed out, as he is about to leave from playing in the band at the party.
4 "Mother's Milk" Edward Berger David Nicholls June 2, 2018 0.264
In 2003, Patrick is sober and has become a lawyer. He brings his wife Mary and three children to the South of France to visit his gravely ill mother, who has suffered a stroke. Eleanor has been taken in by a shady guru named Seamus, who has convinced her to sign the deed to the house over to the "foundation" which he leads. Being disinherited conjures up Patrick's buried resentment toward his mother, causing him to begin drinking and using prescription drugs again. His marriage to Mary is also in trouble, which he makes worse by engaging in an affair with his old girlfriend Julia when she visits. Patrick comes to terms with the loss of his childhood home and gives his blessing to his mother's plans, offering to arrange for her to be brought to London. Thereafter Patrick brings his family to Connecticut to see his snobbish aunt Nancy, where his drinking spirals out of control. After an angry confrontation with Nancy, Mary confronts Patrick and gives him an ultimatum: sober up or leave.
5 "At Last" Edward Berger David Nicholls June 9, 2018
April 2005 - Eleanor Melrose has passed away and Patrick presides over her funeral. There are flashbacks of Patrick's life over the past two years, in which his drinking problem continued unabated after separating from Mary and his children. Eventually he returns to a rehab center, and after initially resisting the process and even escaping, he returned to focus on his recovery. His mother, bedridden in a London nursing home, insisted on being euthanised, so Patrick petitioned the British government to allow her to be brought to Switzerland. After gaining approval, Eleanor changes her mind at the last minute. There is also a flashback to years earlier, when Mary and Patrick realize that his father was a serial child molester, and Patrick for the first time confronts his mother about the abuse, who claims to have also been abused by David. In the present day, Eleanor's funeral and wake turn into a bizarre show as old faces converge. Patrick struggles to reconcile the positive portrait of Eleanor which others knew to his own experience of her as a neglectful mother.
Patrick Melrose review – a brilliant portrayal of addiction
5 / 5 stars 5 out of 5 stars.
Benedict Cumberbatch had long wanted to play Edward St Aubyn’s character – and David Nicholls’s adaptation shows the actor’s deep understanding of the role
Sun 13 May 2018 22.10 BST Last modified on Tue 19 Jun 2018 12.23 BST
The phone rings, one of those telephones from my childhood, with a curly wire connecting the receiver. A stripy-shirted arm reaches for it tentatively. “Hello?” says a voice – deep, aristocratic, lugubrious and woozy, but unmistakably Benedict Cumberbatch (confirmed when the camera eventually looks higher). There is a delay and an echo on the line (remember that?). Sad news from New York: his father has died.
Patrick Melrose, the character Cumberbatch is playing, sinks slowly towards the floor, but not in grief. He has dropped something; a syringe. There is a tell-tale blood spot on the shirt, too.
After hanging up, Melrose’s face slowly – very slowly – transforms. His eyes close, he exhales through his nose, the corners of his mouth twist into a smile, because heroin is now flooding his brain cells and because of another kind of release – from the abusive relationship and trauma that was instrumental in getting him mixed up with serious drugs in the first place.
“Old bastard’s only gone and died,” he says to one of the women in his life. He is thinking of giving up drugs, he tells another. Then he Concordes across the Atlantic, where he fails spectacularly to give up drugs (to heroin add amphetamines, quaaludes, valium and alcohol) and very nearly fails to pick up his father’s ashes. He only just fails to kill himself, too.
The first episode of Patrick Melrose (Sky Atlantic), adapted by One Day writer David Nicholls from the autobiographical novels of Edward St Aubyn, covers two days in 1982 in New York, with flashbacks to a miserable childhood that is explored – excruciatingly and poignantly – in future episodes.
It could have been ghastly – messed-up, Tennyson-quoting toff throws money at people and takes a lot of drugs in 80s New York, because his messed-up toff daddy wasn’t very nice to him. And how can the thoughtful wit and exploration – of the character and of addiction and privilege - of the books translate to the screen?
It is a triumph, though. Nicholls must take some credit for managing to boil down five books into five hours of television without losing flavour. I have seen three, each of which has a distinct character that has a lot to do with where and when it is set, yet they nod to each other and belong together, like movements in a symphony. The dialogue (much of which is Melrose in conversation with himself) is sharp; this is tight, intelligent adaptation.
Then there is Edward Berger’s direction. Berger, who did Deutschland 83, does excellent New York 82 as well. There are so many glorious scenes in the first episode. At the funeral parlour on Madison (“only the best or go without” Melrose’s father would have said), where Melrose goes into the wrong room, a Jewish wake, before finding the right one and unwrapping his father like a birthday present (“Is it Dad? It is! It’s just what I wanted, you shouldn’t have!”). A disastrous date with an ambitious New York socialite who doesn’t want a quaalude or even a drink. Another drink with a woman who witnessed some of Patrick’s tragic childhood. During this one, a quaalude hits and everything slows down, as if all the batteries have suddenly gone flat – Patrick’s voice, the movement of the camera … until he does a line of speed in the loo. Suddenly, everything – jerky camera movement included – is on full charge again. It is an immersive experience: not just watching Melrose, but kind of being him as well.
Which brings us to the man who has thrown himself into Melrose. There are other fine performances: Sebastian Maltz, haunting as young Patrick; Hugo Weaving as his monster father; Jennifer Jason Leigh as his wasted, spaced out, waste-of-space mother. But this is the Cumberbatch show and it has come to town.
He had always wanted the part, he told the Radio Times, which might have been problematic, made it a vehicle for his talents and range: look at me acting, now shower me with awards.
Maybe there is a bit of that going on. But it also means he has a deep understanding of the character. He hits just the right note: hilarious, but also tragic, irritating, exasperating. It is addiction personified, sympathetic without being celebratory or glamorised. So, do look at him – it is impossible not to – and shower him with awards. He is, and it is, brilliant.