Inside No. 9 (Season 5) ★★★★

 Love’s Great Adventure  ★★★★

TELEMMGLPICT000223981195_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqpVlberWd9EgFPZtcLiMQfyf2A9a6I9YchsjMeADBa08A kitchen-sink drama that rivals Ken Loach as Reece and Steve bring us twenty-four minute long looks into the life of a struggling family in the lead up to Christmas, each presented as a different number on a young boy’s advent character.

The realism and performances from guest stars Debbie Rush, Gaby French, Olly Hudson-Croker and Bobby Schofield are all astounding, immediately conveying a palpable hectic home-life that’s brimming with love. Director Guillerm Morales is confined to just one room (the kitchen) yet somehow wrings every ounce of despair and life out of it. Whether it be in Trevor (Pemberton) and Julia (Rush’s) tumultuous marriage that flips back and forth between screaming matches and confessions of love, estranged son Patrick’s addiction and financial troubles or the nuanced agony of financial trouble in lieu of giving your kids what they want. It’s a remarkably gentle and compassionate tale that manages to encompass an entire series worth of characters in such a short space of time.

Shearsmith’s uncle Alex pops in and out throughout the narrative too, lending just enough pathos and encouragement to spur on his fellow players as Patrick’s troubles begin to catch up with the family. Trevor and Julia just want everyone to have a good Christmas, but it’s not easy. A defining accident on December 9th sends Trevor to hospital as the episode skips the inciting incident and leaves it for us at the episode’s climax, whilst other elements are slyly buried within normal conversation and scattershot clues.

A particularly heated performance from Bobby Schofield as troubled Alex sells the pain of addiction tenfold, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up being a household name in the near future based on his role here. It’s a devastating and truthful look at the topic that smartly veers away from becoming too downbeat; Trevor and Julia’s love for their family and dedication to keeping everyone safe makes sure that amidst all the darkness the episode never loses sight of hope.

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