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'Alice & Jack': A Polarizing Love Story or an Exercise in Frustration?

Updated: Jun 14

Channel 4 / Freemantle
Channel 4 / Fremantle

Channel 4's new miniseries "Alice & Jack" arrives amidst a wave of dramas depicting love stories across vast timespans. With its star-studded cast, indie film aesthetic, and a narrative spanning 15 turbulent years, it promises a unique and unconventional romance. Yet, the show has sparked a decidedly mixed response. While some applaud its unflinching portrayal of complex characters, others find themselves exasperated by the toxic dynamic at its core.

The Premise: An Enduring, All-Consuming Obsession

Andrea Riseborough ("To Leslie") stars as Alice, a prickly and emotionally guarded woman working in finance. Domhnall Gleeson ("About Time") plays Jack, a sweet but awkward lab scientist. Their initial encounter is far from a fairytale meet-cute: an uncomfortable date leads to a one-night stand, but Alice firmly rejects Jack's attempts at further connection. Years later, however, their paths cross again, igniting a destructive pattern of attraction and repulsion that neither can truly escape.

"Alice & Jack" draws immediate comparisons to "One Day," sharing a non-linear structure and bittersweet tone. Yet the Channel 4 series opts for a stripped-down approach, minimizing subplots and focusing almost exclusively on the tumultuous central relationship. This intense focus becomes both the show's strength and its primary point of contention.

The Performances: Elevating the Material

Reviewers consistently praise the performances of Riseborough and Gleeson. Riseborough injects Alice with a complexity that adds depth to a character who could easily be dismissed as merely cruel and dismissive. Gleeson, channeling his inner Richard Curtis protagonist, excels in both tender moments and later scenes of emotional desperation. Their undeniable chemistry and ability to shift between biting banter and raw vulnerability elevate the often-frustrating material. "Alice & Jack" boasts strong supporting performances as well, notably Aisling Bea as Lynn, a casualty of the protagonists' cycle, and Sunil Patel as Jack's grounded friend Paul.

Channel 4 / Freemantle
Channel 4 / Fremantle

The Central Problem: A Dubious Love Story

While billed as a "love story for the ages," the show arguably undercuts its own premise. Yes, Alice and Jack share an undeniable connection, but the show struggles to adequately explain its enduring intensity, particularly after an unpromising start. This leaves viewers perplexed rather than deeply moved. Are we witnessing a connection forged in trauma? A grand passion? Or merely two people inexplicably and stubbornly stuck on a self-destructive hamster wheel?

The heightened dialogue, while often poetic, at times veers into overly sentimental territory. This, when coupled with the characters' baffling decision-making, lessens the impact the show strives for.

When "Alice & Jack" Works Best

The most compelling aspects of "Alice & Jack" unfold when the focus shifts away from the central romance. As the story progresses, both characters experience life-altering events outside the confines of their relationship. We see them struggle with grief, grapple with their past, and build meaningful connections beyond their fixation on one another. These scenes breathe life into the narrative, offering respite from their self-inflicted chaos and making them feel more fully realized.

The later episodes are undoubtedly the series' strongest. Here, the filmmaking, notably the cinematography and haunting score by Stephen Rennicks, works in perfect harmony with the emotional weight of the plot. Yet, viewers must weather a significant amount of frustrating behavior and questionable choices to reach this point.

So, Is "Alice & Jack" Worth Your Time?

If you crave a fluffy, escapist rom-com, this is emphatically not your show. If, however, you relish stories of flawed, infuriatingly self-destructive characters and enjoy analyzing motivations even when they defy logic, you might find elements of "Alice & Jack" intriguing.

It stands as a cautionary tale about the perils of romanticizing a connection based on emotional volatility and unresolved issues rather than true compatibility and growth. And while it may not fully succeed as a love story, the series does offer a poignant examination of how we can both be the architect of our own misery and the catalyst for much-needed change.

Enjoying this article? If you love exploring love stories, check out That Love Podcast! We bring you original, bite-sized audio rom-coms. Discover your next favorite here:

FAQs for Alice and Jack

Q: I'm drawn to complex characters but hate frustrating plotlines. Should I bother with "Alice & Jack"?

A: Maybe. The show's greatest strength is its multi-layered characters, but their repetitive, illogical decisions can be maddening. If you enjoy character analysis and don't mind an emotionally turbulent ride, there's something here. But don't expect a satisfying resolution or neatly explained motivations.

Q: Are there any redeeming qualities to Alice and Jack as a couple?

A: This is subjective! Riseborough and Gleeson have undeniable chemistry, and the writing occasionally delivers sharp, witty dialogue. However, the show struggles to make a compelling case for their enduring connection beyond an abstract 'pull'.

Q: I enjoy dramas that explore the messiness of love. Will this satisfy that craving?

A: It depends. "Alice & Jack" highlights how people can sabotage themselves and those around them when fixated on a destructive notion of love. If you find that theme compelling, there's value here. But prepare for a bleak take on romance.

Q: "One Day" was heartbreaking. Is "Alice & Jack" similarly tear-inducing?

A: It offers a different kind of sadness. While "One Day" evokes yearning and nostalgia, "Alice & Jack" leans toward frustration mixed with occasional pangs of pity. Think less epic love story, more a study in self-inflicted emotional hardship.

Q: Should I watch for the performances alone?

A: If you're a fan of either Andrea Riseborough or Domhnall Gleeson, their performances are the show's highlight. They elevate the material and make even the most infuriating moments compelling.

Enjoying this article? If you love exploring love stories, check out That Love Podcast! We bring you original, bite-sized audio rom-coms. Discover your next favorite here:


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