Sex Education review

Sex Education, Netflix’s newest original series, follows a group of sixth form students as they discover the joys and misadventures that come with having sex. Created by Laura Nunn and starring a string of fresh faces, the comedy-drama is pitch-perfect and completely of the moment.

There is an appealing universal nature to Sex Education, with its effective balancing of timely themes (abortion, masculinity and sexual orientation) and a whiff of the surreal, giving it the chance to speak to both men and women. It’s entirely adult in nature and not for younger audiences, but its exploration of sex holds a genuine relatability that older audience members – who this was made for – will, undoubtedly, find refreshing.

Similar in ways to Skins but much funnier and less inescapably depressing – as well as being embedded in more realism and less cliched drama – Sex Education encompasses a fantastic Britishness while embracing an 80’s American aesthetic. Also, much like Skins, it’s successfully providing a platform for a plethora of young, talented actors, many of whom put in star turns here.

Asa Butterfield leads the ensemble as Otis, a sixteen year old boy coping with rising sexual pressures as he embarks on his first year at sixth form. Butterfield is simply fantastic; relatable, funny, likeable, sweet, slightly weird – as a viewer you can’t help but root for him. This, in itself, is a feat of great serial storytelling. It’s not often – even with the very best of television – that you can binge-watch a series and not find one annoyance with the main character but, with Butterfield’s Otis, this really is the case.

Asa is supported by Ncuti Gatwa (Eric) and Emma Mackey (Maeve), as well as Gillian Anderson; an acting pro who here shows off her knack for delivering understated comedy. The four put in equally memorable performances but it’s Eric‘s story that holds the most emotional depth. With a want not to give anything away, his journey as a gay man with a penchant for styling feminine attire is thoughtfully developed and deeply moving and Gatwa gives an unforgettable breakout performance.

Sex Education is intelligently penned, fiercely relevant and confidently acted cementing it as Netflix’s best original series in recent memory.

Actor Profile: Jack O’Connell

With Angelina Jolie as his chaperone, Jack O’Connell is finding his feet in Hollywood. War epic Unbroken is due to be released on Boxing Day and until now the actor has been known for his portrayal of troubled (and troublesome) young men. With initial reports being positive on O’Connell and his up-and-coming role (which will no doubt propel him into super-stardom), a look into the actors previous works seems appropriate.

Many found themselves intrigued by O’Connell during his turn in E4’s Skins; a television series which upped the bar for drama which focuses on young adults. O’Connell is remembered for his role as Cook, a violent teen with a history of rebellion, and a criminal wrap sheet that doesn’t read well. Before this captivating turn came two films which cemented him as an actor unafraid to tackle the big subjects; first is the now classic Brit drama This Is England. Directed by Shane Meadows and featuring O’Connell in only a small role the film explored racism, Thatcherism and the lifestyle that ultimately comes with being a Skinhead. Two years later the young actor can be seen as the lead antagonist in gory indie horror Eden Lake; disgustingly chavvy and repulsively evil, O’Connell plays Brett with a stellar force (this is probably the only role the actor portrays that you find yourself loathing).

Jack O'Connell

Jack O’Connell

After his turn in various supporting roles O’Connell found himself as the lead in 90’s set rave drama Weekender. As Dylan, he stands out as a comedic force with the ability to switch characteristics comfortably and realistically whenever necessary. With five more British titles under his belt between 2011 and 2013 (including Tower Block), last year saw the actor take on a role which would lead to his discovery in Hollywood. Starred Up, directed by David Mackenzie (and co-starring Ben Mendelsohn and Rupert Friend) follows O’Connell as Eric Love, a young man with a pension for violence and a lack of morality which finds him in adult prison at nineteen. This turn, which O’Connell (in an interview with Film4) described, in ways, as a method approach, cemented him as a powerful force – brutal, aesthetically grim and unabashedly real, Starred Up gave O’Connell the power to fully present himself as the adult actor he has become.

This year has been a stellar year performance wise, with a range of diverse roles – from support in 300: Rise of an Empire to the lead in historical action drama ’71. Next comes the eagerly awaited, and much anticipated, Unbroken. As Louis Zamperini O’Connell finds himself in his biggest role to date; portraying the life of a celebrated athlete and war hero. The actor has already won four awards for his role in the film (two of which were joint for Starred Up) and slowly but surely Jack O’Connell is becoming a known force within Hollywood.

Never afraid to portray men who are often treading the thin line between love and hate, and often seen in roles which challenge those watching (aesthetically and emotionally), beyond the perhaps ‘tough guy’ characters he has become so known for, he manages to portray a heart (however hard it is to find that) and O’Connell is a British actor about to take the rest of the world by storm.

British television at it’s best – E4 brings us Glue

Yesterday evening saw the arrival of E4‘s newest offering, Glue; an eight-part teen-drama series set in a small rural town, known as Overton. Broadchurch meets Skins was the word on the street, and while those whispers were certainly right in some ways, Glue, in one episode, managed to present itself as a whole different kettle of fish. Starring a plethora of up-and-comers, including one half of Rizzle Kicks’ Jordan Stephens, there were plenty of teen cliches and mayhem ahoy, but in a gritty, real way. The initial strength of episode one lay with the surprisingly good acting ability of these apparent new-comers. By the final moments though, the mystery of the plot and dark nature of several of the characters left viewers with a sweet anticipation for next week’s offering.

What do we know so far? A thew things; the drama will be focused on a group of eight young adults (Annie, Ruth,Tina, Dom, Eli, James, Janine and Rob), while they come to terms with the murder of one of their own (a younger boy named Cal, brother of Eli, a Romany), drugs, petty-crime and underage boozing are the norm, and betrayal and adultery are a plenty. The most interesting element so far is the large number of Romany inhabitants in the village, something which was an  unexpected element of the drama. Were these people involved in the killing? What brings them to this town? And, will there be a divide between them and the police as the investigation gets going? These are just several pressing questions brought up during the much-too short 50 minute episode (eager beaver, right?).

With the beginning of Glue Channel 4 have yet again highlighted themselves as leaders (perhaps even, pioneers) in Brit drama. When you look at the unique subject matter of shows like Top Boy,  and strength of writing in dramas like Utopia and Shameless, there is little competition elsewhere. Dramas like these are the rare percentage of TV that America cannot compete with – grit and somewhat uncomfortable issues are brought to the forefront of viewers minds, and this kind of genre of television cant quite seem to be replicated in the same way by the yanks.

Not for the fainthearted (featuring full-frontal nudity, animal killing and many more shocks) if Glue can continue to bring the same level of mystery, the sense of teen urgency to experience everything all at once, and the intriguing setting of life on a farm, it will be up there with the best.