'This Way Up' Review: 'Fleabag' Meets 'You're the Worst' In the Best Way Possible
Created by, written by, and starring Aisling Bea, This Way Up is a Hulu comedy about Aine (Bea), a woman exiting a rehab facility and re-entering life after suffering a nervous breakdown. She is an Irish woman teaching English to foreign-language students, including a French teenager who moves in with the English father he never knew he had until his mother passed away (Tobias Menzies plays the father, a man who is somehow both bumbling and brooding, and clearly out of his depth as a parent, which is why he often finds himself relying on his son’s English tutor to provide necessary hugs).
The only person who knew that Aine was in a rehab facility is her sister, Shona (Sharon Horgan, who also exec produces). Aine and Shona have what I would call an affectionally antagonistic relationship, which is to say, they love each other dearly but give one another a lot of sh*t. Meanwhile, Shona’s relationship with her boyfriend Vish (Aasif Mandvi) is getting serious, though Shona may also be exploring her feelings for a woman (Indira Varma).
In the midst of her recovery, Aine is also trying to navigate her relationship with her ex (Chris Geere of You’re the Worst), explore her crush on the father of her French student, and repair her relationship with her mother. It’s all very uncomfortable for Aine, which is great for the audience, because the more uncomfortable Aine is, the more jokes she tells, and those jokes provide a constant source of comedy.
Laying out the plot, however, is no way to sell This Way Up, which is so so much better than any logline might suggest. A better selling point might be drawing favorable comparisons to Fleabag (except that Aine uses jokes instead of sex to diffuse uncomfortable situations), Catastrophe (the sibling relationship between Shona and Aine is similar to the marriage in Catastrophe minus the sex) and You’re the Worst, in the way it explores mental illness and depression. However, This Way Up — unlike the other three series — has a genuine sense of warmth. All the characters are immensely likable, but not in a subversive way: They are genuinely lovely, funny, and human. While This Way Up aches at times, it’s too busy making the viewer laugh to wallow in it. Like Catastophe and Fleabag, it is also criminally short, with six episodes clocking in at a little more than 2 hours, which is enough to make us fall in love with the characters but not so much that we’re not left craving for more. It is a perfect one-night binge.
Header Image Source: Hulu