Patrick Melrose

2019-06-18 14:37
Benedict Cumberbatch in a scene from 'Patrick Melr

TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual abuse, drugs and alcohol abuse


Based on semi-autobiographical novels about Britain's upper class by Edward St. Aubyn, the show sees wealthy Englishman Patrick Melrose attempting to overcome his addictions and demons due to abuse by his cruel father and negligent mother.


I've never been a huge fan of Benedict Cumberbatch. Don’t get me wrong, he’s got chops, but I was just never a fan. Then I watched Patrick Melrose, and it all changed. I have a new respect for Cumberbatch and his craft as well as those suffering from addiction and lifelong trauma.

This show is certainly not an easy watch. In fact, I wanted to give up quite a few times during the first episode as you watch Patrick go through the thralls of various drugs and alcohol and wonder how he hasn’t died yet. You learn that his parents were terrible and there’s hinting at abuse (which is later explored fully), and there’s definitely a lot behind our initial meeting of Patrick.

You get to see Patrick as a rich playboy bachelor in his twenties who takes basically every drug you can think of and drinks just as much after flying to New York to fetch his father’s remains. He eventually sobers up and learns to cope without the drugs, and a few years later he’s married with kids and seems to be happy at first until it’s quite obvious that he’s not. Eventually, he also has to deal with his mother’s death and face the reality of her being complicit in the abuse he received from his father.

This story is a beautiful, poignant, yet dark tale of a life of addiction and how people don’t really recover from abuse; they just live with it. Patrick is haunted by the memories of his childhood and is tormented by his dependency on certain substances to try and dull the pain of things that should never have happened to a child and make him feel better about not coping with them as an adult.

Cumberbatch has said there are only two roles that he ever wanted to play; Hamlet and Patrick Melrose. He was very familiar with the books by Edward St. Aubyn and thought Melrose was a brilliant character to play. I applaud the original author for creating such a brilliantly multi-faceted character, as well as the creators of the show who somehow managed to adapt a five-book series into five hour-long episodes that will break your heart, but somehow still make you smile. But the most praise must go to Cumberbatch who really sunk his teeth into this role and plays it brilliantly.

Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is really a wonderful actress but seems to not have enough big films under her name, is excellent as Patrick’s mother, Eleanor. There was such nuance to this character who seemed like she should be so free and independent and care-free still being held down by this horrible man, showing that abuse doesn’t just happen to those who live in poverty and it isn’t always about the fact that they have no money. Sometimes an abusive partner knows how to control and manipulate until they break the other person down completely.

Hugo Weaving, as Patrick’s Father, David, is incredible. This is such a different role from everything we’ve ever seen him in, but, honestly, he’s terrific at being terrifying, overbearing and horrible. Cumberbatch himself has said that Weaving is actually “…the sweetest, mildest, funniest man,” and was loved by the cast and crew. To know that a man who is so lovely in real life could play someone so cruel is, quite frankly, what it means to see art in motion.

This series is unflinching in its portrayal of terrible, awful things that happen to innocent people and how those people become damaged by them and in turn cause more damage when they don’t actively decide to help themselves and those they care about. You will feel a lot of things watching this, but it will make you a better person for it as there is much to learn about human pain, emotion, addiction and sadness.

If you’re not a fan of dark humour or are triggered by depictions of drug and alcohol abuse or negligent parents, then this show will probably be a difficult watch.

Patrick Melrose is a masterpiece and well-deserved of all praise.



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