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‘Olive Kitteridge’

Over the weekend we watched the TV miniseries Olive Kitteridge which was really good.

It’s based on a book by Elizabeth Strout, which I hadn’t read but Mary had, and stars Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins and other recognisable faces. A husband and wife, raising their son, and growing older together.

It was great, with beautifully balanced performances, especially McDormand. Most people in it have various good and bad characteristics and these are managed very well. No one’s entirely lovely or entirely terrible. You can still root for, and empathise with, people who can be incredibly frustrating and annoying.

Despite this balance, it’s a hard show to recommend. While it’s very good, it’s also really quite depressing. Not in the sense that awful things continually happen to the characters, like what I remember of the good-but-dismal The Village or the recent Les Misérables. It’s depressing in the sense that so many people continually say and do things you know they shouldn’t. Having no tact, ignoring one person over another, treating people in unhelpful or damaging ways… as I said, it’s not one sided, and a character who was grim-faced and unbearable might, in the next scene, show tenderness and a smile but, ugh, it’s hard going. One moment you’re cheering Olive’s blunt manner of dealing with an obnoxious person, and wishing you could be that up-front, and the next you’re cringing as she misses a chance to improve a relationship and, with a triumph of stubbornness over tact, only damages it further. “Your life could be much happier if you weren’t so miserable!” is the kind of dumb, unhelpful thing I found myself thinking, both about them and myself. Still, there’s some kind of lesson in there. Worth watching, honest!

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