I should be honest and say that any storyline involving bitcoin tends to send me to sleep quicker than a hot toddy with a Nytol chaser. Not only is it hard to make cryptocurrency look good on screen, or look like anything at all in fact, but its value is fluctuating so fast in real life that any sense of its worth is hard to gauge. Luckily, Romantic Getaway (Sky Comedy) has the decency to acknowledge at least the first part of the problem. “Get it out, I want to see what 50 grand looks like,” says Allison (Katherine Ryan). “There you go,” says her husband, Deacon (Romesh Ranganathan), slapping a promotional USB stick on the car dashboard.
Ranganathan co-wrote Romantic Getaway with his longtime collaborator, Benjamin Green, and although it sounds like a title that came before a storyline, there is plenty of storyline on display. Allison and Deacon have been trying to have a baby, but after a miscarriage, they have been told that their hopes of conceiving are slim, even with medical intervention. Their last roll of the dice would be IVF treatment at a top-end clinic, with all the costs that private medical care would incur. It is unfair that such a life-changing service is only available to those who can afford it, and it galvanises the couple into making a rash decision.
After admitting to each other that they are desperate enough for the chance of a baby to do pretty much anything, they set about “borrowing” – or rather, fleecing – money out of the property management company where they both work, by transferring the funds out of some forgotten accounts and into Deacon’s bitcoin wallet. Their boss is Alfie, a pinstripe-suited skinflint who rages about Wagon Wheels being put through on expenses and denies Allison and Deacon their rightful bonuses, but who will happily put afternoon “massages” and £300 bottles of vodka on the company card. Johnny Vegas is delightfully repulsive in the role of Alfie, alternately idiotic and threatening, depending on what time of the evening you catch him.
So far, so heist. But at the last minute, Deacon, enraged by his employer and the injustice of life on a middling wage in a nondescript office block in Berkshire, decides to do something out of character and stick it to the man by adding an extra zero to the transfer. Soon, the couple’s deceit begins to spiral out of control. Deacon neglects to tell Allison about the extra £450k, while she starts to doubt whether she wants a baby at all. It’s a little bit romcom and a little bit thriller, and there are plenty of references to Bonnie and Clyde and even Robin Hood, though whether stealing bitcoin from a sauna-loving tight-arse to buy a new Prada handbag has quite the same appeal as robbing the rich to feed the poor remains to be seen.
The use of IVF as the jumping-off point for a comedy caper is debatable, too. But it works well, even in its occasional emotional moments, thanks to the calibre of its cast. It leans heavily on the appeal of its two funny leads. Ryan and Ranganathan are better known as themselves than as actors, though both have previous sitcom experience, in The Duchess and Avoidance respectively. Each leans into their standup comedy persona for their characters here. Allison is bawdy and blunt, particularly when it comes to sex. When she says she is “very difficult to upset”, it reminds me of Ryan talking to Louis Theroux in November, in that great and revealing interview. Deacon, meanwhile, is anxious and dry and reckless in all the wrong places. This is a man who is overconfident about his ability to park in a tight space.
There are moments at which Romantic Getaway feels as if it could have been a comedy or a drama, depending on the toss of a coin. But they plumped for comedy, and comedy it is. Once it gets the scene-setting out of the way, and establishes that they are sort-of-good people doing a bad thing for the right reasons, it starts to find its feet. As the tension rises, so too does the daftness. It is best when it is silliest, and Vegas, Ranganathan and Ryan make a surprisingly killer trio.