TV Review: Divorce, Sky Atlantic

I’m sure I read somewhere that Sharon Horgan writes about the stages of life she has gone through. So there was Pulling, then Catastrophe and, more recently the team effort Motherland, which is being turned into a series after a brilliant pilot. So what does that say about Divorce, her collaboration with its star Sarah Jessica Parker for HBO?

As the title suggests, this is about the end of a marriage. If occasional cracks in the relationship were there in Catastrophe they were always papered over by the undertow of love between the two main characters. Here Frances (Parker) and Robert (Thomas Haden Church) go from happy families to change-the-locks-and-speak-to-my-lawyer meltdown in thirty minutes.

It is all kicked off by a friend’s 50th birthday party in which the husband makes a speech that should be loving but comes across as mean. Hell breaks loose, the police are called and in the aftermath Frances decides she wants to break up: “I want to save my life while I still care about it,” she says.

So far so sad, and there is plenty of sympathy for Frances, who wants an amicable split. But then it turns out that she is having an affair with stubbly bohemian Julian (Jemaine Clement) so maybe she is not quite as squeaky clean as she seems. When Robert finds out about her lover any chance of a reconciliation flies out of the window.

I haven’t mentioned whether this is funny yet have I? That’s because the laughs are of the bleak, painful variety. As with Fleabag Divorce uses humour to take a look at the human condition and humour does not like what it sees. But there are still some trademark striking lines that will make you laugh even if they don’t sound like jokes.

As ever Horgan is brutally honest about relationships. At one point Robert offers “to lick your vagina and tongue-dart your anus” in the hope that it will win Frances round. Sex and the City this ain’t, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any sex in it. 

Tuesdays, Sky Atlantic.

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