Tangle

Tangle2Almost everywhere we see Australian drama lately it comes with a uniform: police, nurses, emergency workers. They dominate issue-based dramas. The presence of the Australian family is diminishing, save for the earnest, sometimes knockabout, affairs of the family Rafter. Even on Neighbours and Home and Away the nuclear family is disintegrating. Any hope of seeing ourselves, let alone actual domesticity moves further and further from our grasp. Despite this, lobby groups that wave the family flag aim their arguments at issues of classification rather than representation.

In Tangle, the latest drama about to unfold on the Showcase Channel, suburbia is placed front and centre. Parents and children are clearly divided into small armies all striving for individuality and the meaning of life, each with a cause as valid as the other.

This is an ensemble drama that hones in on contemporary Australia for its strengths and weaknesses.

After 15 years Ally (Justine Clarke) is trying to keep up with motherhood and her two teenage children Gigi (Eva Lazzaro) and Romeo (Lincoln Younes). Husband Vince (Ben Mendelsohn) is a successful but short-tempered builder / developer. When Ally’s reckless sister Nat (Kat Stewart) returns home from the UK to reunite with her estranged son Max (Blake Davis), she splinters a fragile universe. Max is the son of state politician Tim (Joel Tobeck) who had an affair with Nat fifteen years ago. But it is Max’s stepmother Christine (Catherine McClements) who resents Nat’s return most, fearing the son she has raised will turn from her affections.

The personal agendas do not end there.

Add to the mix infidelities, petty jealousies, racism and failure, and you have a labyrinth of possible plot points from which to unravel this emotive soul. Fittingly, one of the publicity stills for the 10 part series sees the characters separated by the walls of a hedge maze.

Despite the plot possibilities, Tangle is driven by character, and more particularly by flawed characters. These are suburban parents trying to find meaning from everyday life. There are birthday parties to organise, grandparents to appease, teenagers to keep underfoot, employees to fire, relatives to collect from the airport, church to attend, books to read and private time to be cherished. It is a fight just to keep life on track.

Their teenagers are emerging from childhood into adolescence, sharing romance, rebelling from rules, building self esteem and living life on the edge.

There are no comic characters here, no veering into yobbo-land. The tone is intelligent, the performances believable.

When the teenagers find a dead body in the nearby parkland, they share a secret that brings them together. Meanwhile Nat drives a wedge through a family party that embarrasses Christine and infuriates peacemaker, Ally.

Later, Vince’s best friend Gabrielle (Matt Day) returns home from working as a volunteer doctor in Moscow, unable to hide his emotions for Ally. The series also includes a supporting role by the late Frank Gallacher, very possibly his last screen role.

Under director Jessica Hobbs, Tangle is a considered piece. It is unafraid in taking its time to set up its house of cards, before slowly removing each support. Scenes thrive on conversation and subtext, complemented by introspective music and a filmic visual language. In the hands of admired actors, several of which first appeared on Australian television as teens themselves, this is a quiet eruption.

If there are any weak points, it is the likelihood that the discovery of a dead body, could remain a secret for so long. This impacts on the credibility and the sympathy for the young friends.

Otherwise this is a first-rate showpiece, produced by John Edwards (Love My Way, Rush, The Secret Life of Us, Dangerous) and Imogen Banks (Dangerous), who co-created with writer Fiona Seres. Also co-writing is Tony McNamara with Matt Saville and Stuart McDonald directing later episodes.

Many are branding this as pay television’s successor to Love My Way, and it is hard not to feel its DNA running through its veins.

Tangle puts Free to Air Television to shame. Australian drama desperately needs more voices that emanate from truth.

45_starsTangle airs 8:30pm Thursday on Showcase.

14 Comments:

  1. I caught the first two episodes last night after it sitting on my iQ for three weeks.
    It was good, but excruciating at the same time. The characters, especially the teenagers seem devoid of depth, and Justine Clarke was a little painful as the housewife with no clue.

    I’ve seen my favourite telly on Foxtel (Love My Way is the standout), and will continue to catchup on the episodes. But it’s like a book you need to take at least a hundred pages to get into because there are no truly likeable characters.

  2. I’m really looking forward to Tangle. Great cast, from all reports great writing. Love My Way set the standard for Aussie drama, hopefully this one can live up to expectations.

  3. There is no doubt that pay TV is making amazing, brilliant dramas, but I couldn’t see them rating on FTA in a million years – If commercial networks thought they would, they would have already followed suit. So-called “quality” TV is a niche market. Let’s just be thankful for pay and the fact that it means these shows can be made.

  4. Great review David. Everything I’ve read about Tangle makes it sound like its going to be a great show and I’m sure it won’t disappoint! It would be even better if everyone got to see it at the same time though, hopefully it’ll be put out on DVD quickly after its finished.

  5. Oh I am now so desperate to see this, it is not funny. Good review. Love My Way was exceptional and I can’t wait to watch the next one in the line of brilliant Aussie Pay TV dramas.

    But oh if only I had Pay TV.

  6. This sounds really good.

    Finally some Aussie TV to be proud of. Foxtel seems to be doing drama a lot better than FTA. Even Packed to the Rafters has lost it recently.

  7. David – excellent review. I just wish that I had foxtel and could see this show! Oh well – will have to do like I have done with Satisfaction and buy the DVD when it’s released!

  8. FTA networks in this country need to turn to Subscription TV and just take a look at the dramas they produce; with the exception of a few FTA dramas I enjoy Subscription TV dares to be different; dares to be original; something that is severly lacking on our TV Landscape. Unfortunately I do not have pay tv but I will find a way to watch this program.

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