“And they all lived happily ever after” would have to be the most loaded phrases ever attached to any story ever.
It’s a lovely idea and one we clearly want to embrace since everything from the fairytales to romantic comedies to Hallmark cards like lovestruck limpets to the idea that finding someone special is your ticket to the rest of your trouble-free life.
We all knows that’s not true though right? Because even if those kind of kind of utopian, rose-tinted glasses romantic ever-afters are possible, we’re still part of the picture and even the most beatific among us have a way of curdling the most pure of things just by being human.
It’s a hazard of the job of being alive and one that Feel Good, starring Canadian comedian Mae Martin, embraces wholeheartedly with equal parts whippet smart good humour, a seriously introspective heart and an empathetic understanding of the human condition.
Sporting the much-in-vogue indie vibe where everything feels so heightened and yet grounded all at the same time that you swear someone has just switched on a camera and told some fabulously articulate and brilliantly self-aware to philosophically let loose on the messy business of love, life and relationships, Feel Good is a delight that is happy to lay it all on the line but not at the expense of some kind of happy ending.
It does, in fact, begin very much in tune with its title, as Mae (Mae Martin) and George (Charlotte Ritchie) meet after one of the the former’s stand-up routines, with the latter smitten for the first time with a woman and unsure what to do with these new feelings.
What she does do is kiss Mae who is jumpy and rampantly insecure but also very funny, quick-witted and charming in an extrovert way that very much insular George finds utterly compelling.
In no time flat they are dating, kissing, having sex and generally acting like any newly loved-up couple, the only difference being that it all happens behind closed doors.
The only person aware that George’s hitherto upper class, white, heteronormative Oxford-raised life has taken a decidedly sapphic turn is her strange, new flatmate Phil (Phil Burgers) with whom George has no real camaraderie (at first at least) but who turns out to be more of a friend than she could ever have imagined.
Phil is safe because he’s nicely, safely sequestered away from George’s inner friendship circle – Binky (Ophelia Lovibond), Hugh (Tommy Durant Pritchard) and Jared (Al Roberts), who she has known from school but with whom she no longer has much in common.
They are hilariously shallow and vapid, the sort of people good for a fun night out at the pub but not for a deep and meaningful about how you have found true happiness with a woman.
All by herself, and dealing with her mother and father’s divorce, George keeps things very much within the walls of her flat, afraid to let her true self meet a social circle that she has long left behind.
Mae on the other hand is fully proud out, a veteran of several intense relationships that she admits she self-sabotaged due to a restless insecurity that has seen herself endlessly run toward an indeterminate resting place she never manages to reach.
Until, of course, she meets George: alas while they are perfect together, and their relationship is that wonderful things both have been waiting for, she has a lot of baggage from a past blighted with heavily addictive drug use, jail time and 11 years that somehow vanished between the ages of 14 and 25.
See what I mean? Love might be that deliciously perfect construct that we all long for and dream of but we’re still part of it and keeping all the ducks lined up just so is never easy and damn near impossible at times.
Thrown in an emotionally-addled, post-divorce mother (George) and a cold and distant other mother (Lisa Kudrow as Mae’s mum is sheer brilliance, a compelling mix of scorn and repressed love waiting to burst forth when she thinks she can trust her daughter again), the idiosyncratic but heartfelt member of Mae’s Narcotics Anonymous group including sponsor Maggie (Sophie Thomson) and blokey bloke Kevin (Tom Andrews) – honestly the whole group are gems and worth the price of admission to Feel Good alone – and Phil who comes into his own through the six deftly-judged episodes and you have an ensemble cast who make this sitcom feel raw, funny, affecting and hilarious in equal measure.
What really makes the show zing is the chemistry between Martin and Ritchie who, in their portrayals of a couple newly in love but issues aplenty clouding the road to love sweet love, bring a moving jauntiness to proceedings.
You truly believe that here are two people, both outliers in their own, completely different ways, who through the sheer luck of being in the same place and time have found each other and cannot believe their good fortune.
What they have is a very, very good thing. VERY … GOOD.
But like all good things in a world when things are flawed and broken all too often, that’s not always enough; what’s needed when the relationship rubber truly hits the road, opines writers and creators Joe Hampson & Mae Martin, is honesty, tenacity, bravery, and a willingness to take a leap into the void, not knowing where you’ll land but hoping and trusting it will be worth the stomach-churning leap.
It takes a while for Mae and George to figure this out, to stare down their demons of various stripes, and intimidating, soul-baring sizes, and to come together, and then sometimes not, on their road to happily ever after?
Saying if that is where Feel Good lands would be veering dangerously into feel good territory and do a disservice to some very insightful, thoughtful and often hilarious storytelling which rather masterfully mixes in some necessary but barbed home truths in with some sparkling, witty dialogue and characters so vividly and happily realised that you wish you had more than six episodes (though that is just the right amount) to spend with them.
Feel Good is a small and perfect gem that dives deep into the stuff of love, life and relationships, laying bare the lies we tell ourselves and the sabotage, intentional or not, that we routinely employ, in its humourous, heartfelt and charmingly engaging path to exploring whether happily-ever-afters are in fact possible and if so, whether we have it within ourselves to make them happen.