tue 21/09/2021

Trying, Apple TV+ review - the road to parenthood takes a fresh path | reviews, news & interviews

Trying, Apple TV+ review - the road to parenthood takes a fresh path

Trying, Apple TV+ review - the road to parenthood takes a fresh path

Esther Smith triumphs anew in adoption-centred comedy-drama

On the lookout: Imelda Staunton counsels Esther Smith and Rafe Spall in 'Trying'

An attractive and likeable cast remains the principal drawing card of Trying, the Apple TV+ romcom centred around the efforts of a 30something couple to adopt a child. Following on from the first season aired last spring, Andy Wolton's creation gives pride of place to a terrific assemblage of actors, who carry the day even when the piece itself seems to tread faintly overfamiliar ground.

You feel, for instance, as if you've already heard the sort of badinage that bonds Nikki (Esther Smith) and Jason (Rafe Spall), the affectionately sparring duo who may debate the age your shoulders drop (not something to which I've previously given much thought) but never leave you doubting their commitment to one another come what may. Their steadfastness exists in marked contrast to the caddish, notably irreligious Freddy (Oliver Chris, cast to type), who has left Erica (Ophelia Lovibond) quite literally holding the baby in favour of a new American girlfiend possessed of seemingly imperturbable cool.

Rafe Spall and Esther Smith in 'Trying'The would-be parents' future rests in the hands of the concerned if faintly manic Penny (Imelda Staunton, of all deluxe casting choices), who comes proffering a distinct possibility for the couple in a sweet-faced young lad called James. Leaning forward in sympathy, Penny knows a thing or two about the random connections that come our way in life and is on the lookout herself for a partner via a dating agency.

As directed by Jim O'Hanlon, Wolton's writing veers between the sort of ready quips one might associate back in the day with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (there's a great Ariana Grande joke) and some clever comic set pieces that truly do depend upon the situation: Sid Sagar has a choice cameo as the vicar whose name comes in handy at a baptism ceremony gone comically awry, and Jason's lack of control as a newly promoted manager at his work is deftly made plain. Elsewhere, one is especially drawn to Smith's generosity of spirit, which has something about it of Renée Zellweger's Bridget Jones: comically acute and gentle, in turn. Needling the man she clearly loves, Nikki is the beating heart of a show that sometimes feels as if it could sharpen its act. 

An adoptee myself, I was especially engaged by the discussion as to gender, with Nikki and Jason debating whether they would bond better with a girl or a boy, not to mention whether it's better as a parent to be hip or boring. The unspoken answer to that one is that loving is the best attribute of all, to cite a truism worth exploring in art or in life. 

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