Review of Everything I Know About Love – fun, if completely exhausting | Television
Dolly Alderton’s memoir, All I Know About Love, written when she was in her late twenties, became a runaway bestseller. Fellow twenties clung to his stories of brilliant friends, good nights out, depleted bank accounts, bad first dates, worst one-night stands, hopes raised and dashed in their chests of hangover and took it as their bible rather than a previous generation did with Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Helen Journal. The fact that Alderton’s book is also about a loss of the kind you’d only expect to experience in later years also seems to imbue it with real hard-won wisdom.
Alderton has now adapted his tale of those black-edged golden years into a BBC One drama series of the same name. It fictionalizes the memoirs, using them more as a springboard than directly as material, but it’s still quintessential Alderton speaking to the quintessential millennial.
We are in 2012. Maggie (the avatar of the author, interpreted by Emma Appleton) is 24 years old and has just arrived in London. She’s one of four friends sharing an incredibly spacious and unsanitary home, which seems like an odd choice for a series so concerned with perpetuating the relatability that made the book such a hit. They’re all eager to embrace all the pulsating metropolis has to offer, and neither is Maggie. She parties hard and often. As her much more nervous and serious best friend, Birdy (Bel Powley), puts it, in a line representative of Alderton’s acumen in these areas, Maggie is genuinely fun: “Someone who really likes to swim, wear bandanas and playing pool in the pubs!”
In the hands of Alderton and Appleton, Maggie is just charming and natural enough that you give her the benefit of the doubt. It’s possible to consider his self-centeredness and determination to make the worst possible choices whenever a penis appears (particularly when attached to Street, played with perfect slippery toxicity by Connor Finch) a function of youth rather only durable characteristics. As Street says (Oh my God, Maggie! Run fast and run far): “You have about two years to get by.
Rounding out the London roommate – sometimes with karaoke but, as I said, they’re young and need to be forgiven – are Maggie’s college friends Nell (Marli Siu) and Amara (Aliyah Odoffin). But it’s Birdy and Maggie, whose blossoming friendship we see in flashbacks to their school days, who are for each other. The emotional heart of the series is Maggie learning to navigate life more independently when the perpetually single Birdy finally gets a boyfriend and is no longer constantly available for her. Like an emerging mole, blinking painfully in the sun, Maggie recoils from this first experience of adulthood. No one tells him, old friends. There’s no benefit in knowing how much worse this adult gig gets. Let them gather their roses and chop their coke lines on the club toilets while they can.
For anyone much older than Maggie/Alderton, this seven-part journey through the 20s of the Tinder generation will have you feeling like an anthropologist on Mars. (Doubly, if like me you were too old and boring for your 20s even when you were 20.) But questions will surely be asked in the very homes of viewers who recognize the feverish excitement of those years and embraced it. as much as possible. Maggie. Hasn’t the flood of personal writing unleashed by the Internet inoculated them against age-old problems, like bad boy appeal? Did people really stand up for themselves and their friendships as loudly and as often as this lot? When Maggie tells Birdy “You’re the sweetest, funniest person in any room. You out of shape is a level of charm most people don’t achieve in their entire lives” Supposed to take this as an indicator of the depth of love they have for each other, or as a performative joke that means the opposite?The fact that we haven’t seen any of these supposed characteristics in Birdy so far is there a sign in favor of the latter, or a simple failure of writing so far?
Everything I know about love has been presented as a sex and the city for our time, but the characterization isn’t strong enough and it doesn’t have the wit, subtlety or wisdom of this stone of touch – or at least the distance from the described turbulent period that would pass for the latter. But it’s fun hanging out with Maggie and her gang. Exhausting, but fun. More than swimming, wearing a bandana or playing pool at least. But then I would say that, at any age.