Stream It Or Skip It?

Watching the end of a marriage on a TV show or movie is always painful, even if there are laughs along the way. The vicious arguments, the unyielding silences, the general discomfort you can see between the characters. It makes you wonder about your own relationship. But then you drop this crumbling marriage into a scenery-filled Eruopean holiday, and you have the miniseries Us. Read on for more.


Opening Shot: A middle-aged married couple are in bed. “Douglas,” the wife says, “I’m thinking of leaving. I think our marriage has come to an end.”

The Gist: Connie Petersen (Saskia Reeves) thinks her 20-year marriage to Douglas (Tom Hollander) has run its course, especially now that their son Albie (Tom Taylor) will be off to university in the fall. Douglas is flabbergasted by Connie’s declaration. She just feels it’s time to explore and do other things with her life. As they talk through the night, it seems apparent that Connie is steadfast in her decision. There’s only one problem: They have already planned a three-week trek around Europe with Albie.

Connie wants to still go, but Albie is too pained to even think about it. But then he thinks back 24 years, to when they met. Douglas (Iain De Caestecker) was a young biochemist and Connie (Gina Bramhill) was a free-spirited artist. Douglas’ sister tries to set them up at a dinner party; Connie is intrigued by the fact that Douglas is actually smart and not spewing uninformed nonsense like her artist friends. She asks him to walk her home, despite the fact that she’s 8 miles away, so she can sober up. After thinking about that, current Douglas runs after Connie’s car in his socks and says they should take the trip. He vows to change her mind on the trip.

The trip starts in Paris and doesn’t start well, mainly because Douglas, more rooted in his scientific, detailed way than ever, isn’t getting along with Albie, who is going to college to study art. Even on the Chunnel train to Paris, as Douglas times out when they cross into France, the two of them are in conflict. Albie wants to go out on his own and busk, which ruins Douglas’ vision of what the trip would be like. Albie meets a girl named Kat (Thaddea Graham), who spends breakfast pocketing food off the buffet, and doesn’t seem to mind when Douglas politely upbraids her for taking too much food.

In Amsterdam, Connie thinks they should follow Albie’s lead (Kat has followed them there on Albie’s invite) and just go hang out in a coffee shop. Douglas wants to visit the Anne Frank house and follow his precisely-tuned itinerary. By himself in the city, he decides to drink alone and smoke some weed.

The next day, instead of defending Albie, who defends Kat against a couple of of jerk businessmen, apologizes for him. That’s more than enough for Connie to realize the trip was a bad idea. She decides that they should go home; Albie runs off with Kat and leaves a note. Douglas, who is never this spontaneous, decides to go after his son, and when he gets a call from the hotel they’ve booked in Venice, he realizes that’s where he is.

Photo: Colin Hutton/Courtesy of Drama Republic and MASTERPIECE

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? It’s hard to say what Us reminds us of; it’s not really a romantic comedy, because the Petersen’s marriage is falling apart. And, while the scenery in the various cities where it’s shot is spectacular, it’s not really a show that would be an advertisement for travel — though, coming out of the pandemic, it makes us want to go tour Europe more than ever.

Our Take: Us, written by David Nicholls based on his novel of the same name, is a four-episode miniseries, but Masterpiece is showing the series in two, 2-hour chunks. In what was a sign of a good show, we were completely involved in the Petersens’ story for the first two hours and can’t wait to see how it concludes.

There’s a bunch of different themes going on in the first two hours, and they all mesh together well. There’s the crumbling of the Petersens’ marriage, complete with moments of togetherness and romance, which Connie knows is confusing, but it just shows that you can’t just turn off affection for someone who’s been in your life for a quarter century. There’s the family dynamic; the rigid Douglas just can’t fathom how Albie will make a living as an artist, and tells him no uncertain terms. There’s the scenery in the various European cities where they shot, including inside places like the Louvre in Paris and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Finally, there’s the idea of how their opposites-attract relationship started, and how much Connie has had to change her life to fit their relationship; there’s also the matter of the fact that they had a child before Albie that died shortly after she was born. Nicholls, and director Geoffrey Sax, manage to weave all of these threads into the story, while giving viewers spectacular views of the various European cities.

Things go a little astray as Douglas wanders around Venice by himself looking for Albie in the last half of hour 2. Yes, it shows an adventurousness in Douglas we haven’t seen to this point, but we missed the interaction between Hollander and Reeves. He befriends Freja (Sofie Gråbøl), who is fresh off her own marriage crumbling, and we’re not sure how that will go. But we’re wondering if the other two hours of the series will bring Douglas and Connie back together or keep them apart. Perhaps it’s best that they are apart; maybe in those final two hours they’ll both come to the conclusion that the marriage is indeed over.

The other part of the story that we enjoyed were the flashbacks; De Caestecker and Bramhill had as much chemistry as Hollander and Reeves. But it was interesting to see how Douglas has just become a more entrenched version of his younger self, but it was hard to reconcile the free-spirited Connie from the ’90s with the 2020 version. But that’s the whole point of why their marriage is on the rocks; the soul of an artist never left Connie, and she wants to find that person again.

Sex and Skin: Very BBC-friendly shots of the Petersens after a Paris lovemaking session. They also hear Albie and Kat doing it in the room next door, which has to be disconcerting to them.

Parting Shot: A montage of Douglas, Connie, Albie and Freja, all in melancholy moods and alone.

Sleeper Star: Thaddea Graham brought some lightness to the funny, but sad, family dynamics the Petersens were displaying. She was one of our favorite parts of The Irregulars as well, so this is no surprise.

Most Pilot-y Line: Part of Douglas’ character is that he talks about random things, which we’re sure his family is sick of. Also, that aspect of him hit, um, a little to close to home for my comfort.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Us manages to be funny and heartfelt despite documenting what looks to be the end of a long marriage. Even if the story isn’t for you, though, you may just watch so you can start planning your next big vacation.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon,,, Fast Company and elsewhere.

Stream Us On

Stream Us On PBS Masterpiece on Prime Video