Flowers review – mental-health comedy blossoms into utter brilliance

The second series of Will Sharpe’s deeply imaginative comedy-drama has been serious and sensitive in its handling of difficult issues, and hilarious to boot.

It could have finished after the fifth episode on Thursday, and a performance of Amy’s manic, screamy music installation with her Pink Cuttlefish Orchestra. There was a chaotic sort of peace that seemed like a natural end to the second series of Will Sharpe’s deeply imaginative … thing. (Is it a comedy? A dramedy? Dromedary?)

But then, the next day, there was the sixth and final episode, set before the first series. Shun (Sharpe) turns up in a taxi, generous and innocent but carrying sadness and tragedy. He sees the weird world of the Flowers family for the first time, before they see him, and he immediately takes refuge under the family Volvo. Even potential death is a less frightening prospect. They find him though, in a narrow horizontal world under the car. Maurice (Julian Barratt) tries out a Japanese greeting, embarrassingly.

The second series of Flowers has been wild. Brighter, sunnier on the surface but going to difficult new places. To Maurice’s clinical depression was added Amy (Sophia Di Martino)’s bipolar disorder, possibly inherited from her grandfather, whose intoxicating world of Baumgaertner she enters.

Again Flowers has somehow managed to be serious and sensitive about mental illness as well as being hilarious. Again, most of the humour has come from Sharpe’s character Shun, even if he has had less of a purpose now he is no longer illustrating the books that Maurice is no longer writing, and has become something of an alcoholic. There are also laughs from Donald – a man-child, bit of a dick. There are lovely performances from everyone, not least, obviously, from Olivia Colman as Deborah.

In the series finale/prequel, Donald is still/already a bit of a dick, and Nan is still alive, just about. Shun gets stuck up a tree in the magic wood. It’s awkward, also touching, and hopeful. “You help me start again, because you feel … difference,” Shun tells Maurice in his broken English. “Difference, a life, and death, so small, life you can hold.”

And then the closing credits and Shun’s illustrations. Dark illustrations (“I like dark,” he tells Maurice), of the Flowers family under attack by demons. Was Shun there for just one night after all? Has the whole thing been a dark comic in Shun’s own troubled mind? Whatever, it’s been brilliant, both original and utterly familiar. I very much hope there will be more Flowers.


Sam Wollaston

The GuardianTramp

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