Us

While international travel is currently off the cards, you could perhaps indulge in the new UK miniseries Us, a relationship drama with European locations.

The streetscapes of Paris, Amsterdam, Venice and Barcelona are a romantic backdrop to a less-than-romantic story starring Tom Hollander, Saskia Reeves, Sofie Gråbøl and Tom Taylor.

Hollander plays middle-aged father Douglas Petersen, married to Connie (Saskia Reeves). Both are are to become empty nesters given teenager Albie (Tom Taylor) is about to head to University.

But in the opening scene Connie finds the strength to tell Douglas, “I think our marriage might be over.”

Concerned over the concept of “just the two of us rattling around,” she wants out. But Douglas suggests they proceed with a planned holiday to the continent. It’s his last-ditch attempt to salvage his marriage and family.

Promising to demonstrate change by living in the moment, he manages to get Connie and a very indifferent Albie to agree…

But will a holiday with those who have grown apart be a recipe for success or disaster?

Writer David Nicholls takes the glorious route of rail for his drama, allowing for a sense of the romantic and cleverly thrusting his characters into a confined space for an awkward amount of time. Before we even disembark the Eurostar, Douglas has aggravated Albie and left Connie unconvinced.

It’s hard not to feel for Douglas, whose dad personality keeps getting in the way of his good intentions. All those holiday decisions around hotels, restaurants, itineraries are clear points of conflict and misunderstandings. Out of comfort zones everybody’s temperament is on a short fuse.

The bonus for the viewer is in the locations and architecture Us draws upon: canals, alleys, galleries, railway stations… from motorised scooters to cycling in Amsterdam to gondolas in Venice.

The holiday is contrasted by flashbacks to a young Douglas (Iain De Caestecker) and Connie (Gina Bramhill) who were so full of love and optimism when they met in their youth. Where did it all go?

At just 4 episodes this storyline is not particularly complicated, but there are further characters from Sofie Gråbøl and Thaddea Graham that will dare to splinter this universe. As a result the focus is quite satisfyingly on the small ensemble.

Hollander (who is also an executive producer) is haplessly engaging as the father who can’t see the mistakes he keeps making while Saskia Reeves adds generational understanding with a woman’s perspective. Tom Taylor is suitably sweet as the teen in the middle.

David Nicholls adopts a warm, lilting tone in his script and highlights human frailty. In life we often aspire to be something better than the reality …but life is full of new beginnings too.

Us airs 8:30pm Sunday January 31 on BBC First.

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