These two words have the power to trigger a movement, to unite victims and to acknowledge long-hidden suffering. But there's a futility and frustration, too, in discovering that someone else has shared in your experience.
When Patrick Melrose (Benedict Cumberbatch) finally tells his mother Eleanor (Jennifer Jason Leigh) how he was repeatedly raped by his father forty years earlier, her croaked, curt 'me too' is pitiful and enraging.
To feel Eleanor's pain as a victim is to feel a surge of fury that she failed to protect her young son from the same horrors. But of course we've seen enough of Patrick's adulthood in the previous episodes of Sky Atlantic's series to know how easily rot spreads.
The final parts of Edward St Aubyn's semi-autobiographical story, is an exquisite conclusion to the abuse, addiction and attempts at recovery. In David Nicholl's subtly re-ordered screenplay, the five-part series is book-ended by the cremation of a parent.
By the time his mother dies in At Last, Patrick remains the enraged addict that mourned a father 20 years earlier, but he's also a man consumed by his own duties, pity and culpability.
Such breadth is bridged magnificently in Benedict Cumberbatch's performance as the episode shifts back and forth from Eleanor's death bed and funeral, to Patrick's therapy and moments of intimacy and alienation in his marriage.
There's a poetry in the structure, as the themes repeat and reform. Terminally-ill Eleanor pleading to be taken to a Swiss euthanasia clinic is echoed by Patrick's admission during therapy that suicidal thoughts punctuate his every action. Neither give in to this desire.
Flashbacks to earlier summers show Patrick as playful father and doting husband, frolicking with a young Robert, tenderly cupping Mary's pregnant belly. It's a bitter contrast to the puce-faced drunk divorcé spluttering and stumbling around a family home from which he is exiled.
Eleanor's funeral is at once a catharsis and a confinement. After six generations of privilege, the Melroses are cast out of their country house and inherited wealth. Patrick is finally free of a mother who systematically abandoned and disappointed him. But her wake attracts ghoulish figures from his childhood and alienating accounts of a generous, kind and caring woman.
After four episodes that delve into devastation with unflinching, transfixing clarity it is only now that we weep while watching.
Patrick's characteristic cutting wit finally disintegrates into a breakdown/breakthrough as he stands up to deliver his mother's eulogy. After relentless escapism and irony this tenderness is desperately emotive. Benedict Cumberbatch, who has bristled so brilliantly through all the barbed denial, makes Patrick's sudden shift to vulnerability feel palpable.
With this surrender comes sliver of hope, a cold hard nub of resilience, and a desire to see people instead of ghosts. It's the silliest, soppiest secondary character who puts encapsulates this capacity for forgiveness, and whole thrust of the series, most profoundly as she tells Patrick:
'Those who deserve the most blame also deserve the most compassion'.
|What||Patrick Melrose, episode 5 review|
|Where||Sky Atlantic | MAP|
10 Jun 18 – 31 Aug 19, 9:00 PM – 10:00 PM