First season. Tom (Chris O’Dowd) and Louise (Rosamund Pike) are on the verge of a divorce. Formally – because of Louise’s betrayal, but in fact – because of the various contradictions that have accumulated between them. However, they want to try to save their marriage and go to see a counselor every week in the Hammersmith area of London. Next to the psychologist’s house is the Thatched House pub, and Tom and Louise go there for ten minutes before the session to drink a glass of beer or a glass of wine.
In the pub, they discuss all sorts of issues: their family life, their sex life (or lack of it), Tom’s lack of a job, Syria, Brexit, and so on and so forth. In parallel, they watch various couples who consult before them and after the consultation come to this pub for a drink.
The psychotherapeutic session itself is not shown to the audience. But it seems that these meetings in the pub before the session are just the main sessions of psychotherapy, which, perhaps, will save their marriage. Or maybe they won’t allow it – you can’t guess in advance.
Second season. Scott (Brendan Gleason) and Ellen (Patricia Clarkson) are on the verge of a divorce. Formally – because of Scott’s betrayals, but in fact – because of the serious contradictions that have accumulated between them. However, Ellen has not yet decided whether she wants a divorce, so the couple once a week go to a couple of psychologists who receive in the office on the second floor of a hipster cafe located in a small seaside American town.
Scott and Ellen arrive at the cafe ten minutes before the appointment for coffee or tea and talk about their problems, about their attitude to life and new trends, about Elaine’s newfound religion of the Quakers, about the barista of this cafe named Jay (Esko Joley), who demands to call himself “they”, well, and about all sorts of other things.
The original name of the series State of Union (state of the country, union) corresponds to how the annual message of the American president to Congress is traditionally called in the United States. In this case, I would translate this name into Russian as “Marriage Status”, and why the Russian distributors gave the series the stupid name “Family Marriage” (and what kind of it still happens – extra-family, or something) – I don’t know.
A series was filmed for the Sundance TV channel, the well-known screenwriter and in some ways even the “cult” writer Nick Hornby (“My Boy”, “The Long Fall”, “Naked Juliet”, “How to Be Kind”) was responsible for the script, and at the heart of the script there was his book State of the Union: A Marriage in Ten Parts, which determined the format of the series: each part of the book turned into a separate ten-minute episode, so that one season consists of ten ten-minute episodes.
The series was directed by Stephen Frears, director of films such as Dangerous Liaisons, Night Falls, Hero, The Queen, Philomena, and the TV series An Extremely English Scandal.
The first season was about the problems in the marriage of a forty-year-old couple and was set in London, the second season was about a sixty-year-old couple and was set in a small American seaside town.
Chris O’Dowd and Rosamund Pike played a married couple in the first season, and both of them received Emmy awards for these roles, and the series itself received an Emmy.
Interestingly, Chris starred in this series between the second and third seasons of the American series Get Shorty, in which he plays a mobster trying to become a movie producer.
The format of the series is very simple: in fact, it is a performance consisting of some dialogues and divided into short segments. In my opinion, this division into ten ten-minute dialogues was thought up very correctly: 100 minutes of listening to the conversations of a married couple discussing their relationship would be somewhat tiring, but here each individual episode is a separate topic for discussion, and the audience themselves can decide how they they will watch it all: one episode at a time, two at a time, five at a time, or they will watch everything at once.
The first season I have, as they say, “went” immediately, from the first episode. Excellent dialogues, cute and witty skirmishes, very funny Chris O’Dowd (this character looks a bit like his Roy from The Geeks here), wonderful Rosamund Pike, coolly built dramaturgy – well, just very, very cool!
At the same time, you really empathize with the heroes and hope that everything will work out for them one way or another, especially since they themselves are clearly striving for this, and here their desire is mutual, otherwise often in such family therapies one spouse (or spouse ) seeks to save the marriage, while the other simply serves the sessions as a tedious duty.
The second season is clearly different, and at first my wife and I did not particularly like it: we watched the first two or three episodes with the feeling that we would soon abandon this season. However, somewhere by the third or fourth series, the second season also “swinged” well, and we finished watching it without stopping.
Interestingly, if in the first season Tom and Louise are people of the same era and more or less similar attitudes to many things (with the exception of Brexit, of course), then Scott and Ellen, despite a slight difference in age (Ellen is five years younger than Scott) as if from completely different eras. Scott is a bearer of old conservative values, he does not understand all these new trends, he does not understand how a particular person can be called “they”, he also cannot understand at all why when he asks for just “coffee”, he is offered twenty options for this coffee, and even his brains soar with coffee varieties and roast levels.
However, this season shows very well how Scott began to noticeably change during their conversations in the coffee shop, and this metamorphosis did not look artificial: Scott is clearly not a stupid person, and if he simply did not understand some things before, then when Ellen is with him began to talk about it, he began to think about it and draw certain conclusions.
And all this is done very well dramaturgically, and, unlike the first season, there are also a couple of rather unexpected and cool plot twists, it is also played just brilliantly, which, however, is not surprising: both Brendan Gleeson and Patricia Clarkson are wonderful actors And they played their story absolutely wonderful. And, interestingly, in the end I liked the second season even more than the first, although the first is also very, very good!
Great series, I really recommend watching it. It seems simple, but really cool from all sides. Subtly, witty, excellent script, cool production and wonderful acting incarnation. Looked with great pleasure.
PS For the first season, voice acting was done, where the main characters were voiced . It turned out, in my opinion, very interesting, so if you can’t watch it in the original (at least with subtitles), then the voice acting here is quite decent.
State of the Union
Director: Stephen Frears Cast: Chris O’Dowd, Rosamund Pike, Brendan Gleeson, Patricia Clarkson, Esco Joley, Janet Emsden, Jeff Rohl, Laura Cubbitt, Elliot Levy, Ashlyn Bee
Series, UK, 2019, 10 min. Tragicomedy, 2 seasons of 10 episodes