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DVD Review

DVD cover

Patrick Melrose


Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Hugo Weaving
Distributor: Acorn Media International
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 18
Release Date: 16 July 2018

Patrick Melrose is a haunted man. Running from his past, Patrick hides behind alcohol and drugs, but these cannot hide him forever. When Patrick is informed that his father has died in America the scab is finally loosened and Patrick starts to unravel…

Patrick Melrose (2018. 5 Eps x 50+ mins) is a dark comedic drama, based on the semi-autobiographical novels of Edward St Aubyn, adapted by David Nicholls.

When we first meet Patrick, he comes across like a more cynical English version of Hunter S. Thompson. Completely out of control, Patrick tries to collect his father's remains without the help of his usual collection of drugs, only for an emotional tsunami to overwhelm him driving him back to his normal coping strategies and a deep dive into a drug fuelled semi madness.

Patrick Melrose is not an easy rollercoaster to experience. Without giving too much away there is something in Patrick’s past which drives his behaviour. If this were just another story of redemption, then the show would not be as good as it is.

Melrose explores the dissolute lives of people who live on inherited money, engaging in an endless string of meaningless parties, trying to fill the gaps in their lives. Because of this, the missing cores of their lives are filled with alcoholism, violence and disfunction, traits that they foist onto their children, creating the next generation of damaged individuals.

The series shifts between differing time periods to encompass the central core of Patrick's life, from his destructive childhood to a more hopeful period of fatherhood. As each episode proceeds the layers of Patrick's life are pulled back to reveal the central defining event from his childhood and the recurring damage which defines his adulthood. The script is so well constructed that none of this back and forth leads to confusion, rather it skillfully juxtaposes cause and effect.

This may seem a little dour, but Patrick Melrose is a black comedy and it allows Benedict Cumberbatch to inhabit the acerbic central character. Patrick may be damaged, but he is also intelligent and witty.

It could have been easy to have the story rely on Cumberbatch as its central star to drive the story, but this is a wonderful ensemble piece with many strong performances, especially from its two other main characters played by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Hugo Weaving.

The series was presented on two screener discs, so it is unclear if the final product will have any extras. The disc as offered up has an MPEG – 2 encoding with a DD 2.0 and LPCM two channel audio track.

At times the story can be harrowing to watch, but it's shot through with sometimes hilarious situational comedy. Cumberbatch gives a tour de force of a performance, probably one of the best of his career.


Charles Packer

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