Creator of the long-spanning BBC3 sitcom Him & Her, Stefan Golaszewski, has been channelling his writing into a new six-part bittersweet comedy, Mum. The narrative follows recently widowed Cathy as she copes (rather admirably) with the loss of her husband and the addition of a new member of the family; son Jason’s new girlfriend Kelly, who is ditsy and initially very peculiar; seeming, if only at first, to stand in stark contrast to the rest of the family.
Mum is a comedy of frustrations and miscommunication. There are backstories to consider, such as poor Kelly’s dysfunctional, perhaps even bordering on abusive, relationship with her mother. Golaszewski utilises these subtleties to consider the boundary between indecency and secrecy, frequently flirting with the idea of blurring the line between the two, forcing viewers to acknowledge their own instinctive desire to pigeon-hole characters into tropes. And there is an undeniable warmth to the narrative and these character relationships, with the constant competing of noises proposing a nostalgic element for those who grew up as part of a big family.
Upon first viewing, some elements of the narrative may seem to be cliché, with the younger characters being highlighted as rather dense and materialistic. However, this softens as the series progresses and Jason and Kelly begin to make important life decisions, such as making plans to move to Australia. It is important to note that these personalities are not the problematic ones within the family dynamic. The bitter characters, though often overbearing in their brashness, serve as an interesting contrast against the virtuous ones, including hero of the hour Michael, played by Peter Mullan. This alludes to the notion of intentions conflicting with behaviours, with those who might be forgiven for struggling actually doing quite the opposite and those who seem put-together threatening to fall apart (note the crumbling marriage of Pauline and Derek).
Any potential over-exaggeration of antagonistic characters, Dorothy Atkinson’s Pauline in particular, is rescued by the subtlety of writing for our protagonist, Cathy. Lesley Manville shines in this production, with Cathy providing delightfully unexpected sarcasm and dark humour in moments of tension. Manville and Mullan make a tantalising onscreen pair and the potential for their friendship to blossom as each begins to move on from their past relationship is sweetly and realistically developed. This comedy is an exploration of a variety of humanity’s biggest fears, spanning from bereavement and loneliness to relationships and family values. Humble and sympathetic, Mum presents a narrative that has plenty of scope to flourish within a second series.