TV shows

In ‘Come Home’ TV show, a home turns into a battlefield

The BBC mini-series depicts a disintegrating family trying to understand what went wrong.

The end of a marriage is an enduring premise for a TV show. The story of divorce and child custody has been told many times before – there are the similar and familiar struggles, awkwardness, pain and resolution. The challenge for any TV show that takes on a divorce is to depict it differently.

This is what BBC’s Come Home attempts to do in its three one-hour episodes about a family being torn apart. Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who, The A Word) is Greg, a middle-aged man whose wife walked out on him and her children some 11 months ago. No reasons are given and no signs are visible – to him, at least. His wife of 19 years, Marie (Paula Malcomson) loves her two teenagers Liam and Laura, and five-year old daughter Molly, but cannot bear to spend another minute under the same roof with the man with whom she has built this life.

The mini-series depicts a disintegrating family trying to understand what went wrong. The first two episodes are told from the point of view of Greg and Marie, respectively.

Greg is struggling to keep his life together, and the children aren’t doing much better either. With Marie gone, it’s all still new and difficult. But he believes he deserves some fun. When his awkward first date doesn’t go too well, he finds himself attracted to and involved with Brenna (Kerri Quinn), an acquaintance whom he rescues as she is being assaulted by her abusive partner. Soon enough, he invites her and her young son into his home, much to the shock and displeasure of his brood.

Marie gets an episode too, and this is where we get a glimpse into the struggles of a 40-something woman who decides to move out for the sake of her own peace and happiness. As one would imagine, it isn’t easy. She still meets her 14-year-old daughter for lunch sometimes, finds it hard to face old friends when she bumps into them, and is struggling to get back out there with the help of app-based dating sites. We are introduced to her relationship with her own mother. As grave secrets and old truths come to light, they add a new, unexpected perspective to a mostly straightforward plot.

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Come Home.

The series finale attempts to provide some resolution to the whole situation, to only mildly satisfying results. After Laura gets embroiled in the abusive drama that Brenna brings with her, Marie decides that she wants her kids back and takes her ex-husband to court. This is where the two sides of the story come face-to-face. Through a series of confessions, inquiries and flashbacks we are given an idea of the exhaustion and decline that has set into their lives. The shows portrays a dysfunctional marriage with all the issues that come with it – post-natal depression, emotional control, loss of identity, deceit, infidelity, guilt and regret, angry teenagers and abuse.

Separation and divorce are not easy subjects, and do not necessarily make for the most binge-worthy TV. But what saves the show from becoming yet another study of the machinations of a separation is Eccleston’s masterful balancing of tragedy with comedic awkwardness and BAFTA-winning screenwriter Danny Brocklehurst’s deeply emotional writing about a home that has turned into a battlefield.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.