fri 19/07/2024

Love, Nina, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

Love, Nina, BBC One

Love, Nina, BBC One

Culture clash and class collision in bohemian north London

Nina (Faye Marsay) with Joe (Ethan Rouse, left) and Max (Harry Webster)

It’s not hard to see what attracted Nick Hornby to Nina Stibbe’s surprise bestseller: Love, Nina (BBC1) is about two boys who are mad about football. Set in the halcyon days of 1982 – no internet, no mobile phones – it fictionalises the experiences of a 20-year-old wannabe nanny from Leicester who enters the weird world of bohemian north London.

Surveying the comfortable squalor and polished floorboards of 55 Gloucester Crescent, NW1, Nina (Faye Marsay) asks her future employer: “Have you just moved in?”

Culture clash and class collision are staples of period drama. Think of dear Downton Abbey. This one is based on letters sent home by Nina to her sister Vic. We are in the same neighbourhood as 84 Charing Cross Road (1987). The quaintness is emphasized by captions that punctuate the action: “Are You a Virgin?”, for example, and “Nobody Ever Talks about the Hidden Costs of Promiscuity.” The precocious boys, Joe (Ethan Rouse) and Max (Harry Webster), are fascinated by sex (and nuclear war) as well as football – such earthy material presumably explaining the show’s late slot. Earlier on Sunday evening would be more appropriate. The happy music is a sure sign that the five-part series is meant to be family viewing in more ways than one.

Stibbe’s book purports to be non-fiction (a kitsch-and-tell memoir) but Hornby’s adaptation has no place for the most famous resident of Gloucester Crescent (apart from the old lady in the van): Alan Bennett. Old Nick has taken the camp out of Camden. Instead we are introduced to Malcolm (the ubiquitous Jason Watkins), a prissy Scottish poet who has dinner with the apparently fatherless family each evening. He is more than difficult to please, which allows for plenty of jokes about Nina’s cooking. A running gag concerns the various merits of tinned versus fresh tomatoes.

What else? Not much. Joe, the younger brat, has medical “issues”. Nina, who prefers to proceed through life bare-footed, has her sights set on the curly-haired carer of a grouchy geezer in a wheelchair. Oh, and Ralph Vaughan Williams’s widow lives next door but one.

Director SJ Clarkson didn’t need to resort to the cliché of shooting through the back of a fridge (or from under the aforementioned floorboards). The script and all the performances, especially Helena Bonham Carter (pictured above) as mum and magazine editor George, are strong enough. It may be froth – fond and funny froth – but, as is the way of froth, it leaves you wanting more.

As is the way of froth, it leaves you wanting more


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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