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  • Writer's picturePaul Gainey

Alice & Jack

What’s in the ether with sputtering, on-off romances at the moment? We’ve just had the Netflix adaptation of One Day. Now, there’s Victor Levin’s Alice & Jack, a six-part Channel 4 drama devoted to decades-spanning romantic dysfunction. Part-directed by Juho Kuosmanen (Compartment No 6) and Hong Khaou, it’s an emotionally visceral journey, with cerebral entrails dangling out.

I’m instantly on board because finance whiz Alice is played by Andrea Riseborough. I love the serrated edges she brings to roles. Domhnall Gleeson is Jack, a deep-thinking biomedical researcher. Having met through an app, their bond is obsessive, erratic and damaging. As time passes they keep reuniting, needing rather than wanting each other. Particularly for Alice, a hard knot of scar tissue, there could be too much past trauma to deal with.

Be warned, you may not like Alice, or indeed Jack. There are times when I think: what insufferable, self-indulgent drama queens! With a supporting cast including Aisling Bea, Aimee Lou Wood and Sunil Patel, it’s more or less accepted that the titular leads’ great love has the right to flatten everything and everyone before it. They mess perfectly nice people about, while over time the barriers to them getting together feel fabricated and flimsy. If you hang around long enough (another spoiler klaxon), you may feel a mite conned by the bizarre, mangled happy-sad ending.

The motivations for Alice and Jack being together are a mystery – she's rude and controlling, he's gentle and quietly ambitious – and in real life Jack would have given everything up as a bad job.

At the same time, Alice & Jack feels at once daring, cerebral (like a strange, long play chopped into six bits), prickly and amusing (“I’m going to say this to you as nice as I can – go away, please”). Riseborough and Gleeson convince as the perma-turbulent couple, their individual dysfunctions smashing together in roaring black waves. It’s not full of sex scenes, but there is sometimes the sense of an older, more knackered Normal People. Though that alone makes you wonder if we really need another anti-romcom for our cynical times.

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