TV review: I Am Season 2
5 / 5 ( 2 votes )
Written by Arthur
Exquisitely raw performances
Rating Suranne Jones, Letitia Wright and Lesley Manville star in this anthology of emotionally powerful and personally resonant drama.
I Am Season 2 premieres at 9pm on Thursday 5th August, with all 3 episodes available on All 4 at once.
When Channel 4 released the first season of I Am in 2019, the series became the most successful 10pm drama the broadcaster had released in six years. In its first week the opening episode, starring Vicky McClure as a woman in a coercive relationship, clocked up viewing figures of 1.3 million. The anthology, created by Dominic Savage, plays out as a trilogy of standalone films that pairs him with a leading British actor. The second season (another trilogy) features Suranne Jones, Letitia Wright and Lesley Manville in the central roles, with each collaborating with Savage on individual stories that are emotionally powerful and personally resonant.
I Am Victoria stars Jones and Ashley Walters as a married couple with two daughters who live in an enviably sizeable house with all the mod cons. They seemingly have it all, but Victoria is crumbling under the pressure of keeping up appearances and is struggling to process or communicate her feelings. Similar to the first season, a handheld camera closely follows Victoria through her days of fitness and beauty regimes, demanding work schedule, house upkeep, family duties and entertaining guests. It all plays out with a simmering intensity as Victoria bubbles with rage, anxiety and frustration at the picture of perfection she has carefully cultivated and is desperately attempting to maintain. Jones, of course, turns in a memorable and commanding performance of a woman on the edge; a sympathetic and complex character whose inner turmoil rings true.
I Am Danielle stars Letitia Wright as a photographer who meets a potential suitor at a fashion photoshoot. At first, the genial ambience set by energetic camerawork and Wright’s naturalistic performance, as she engages in delightful yet meaningful back-and-forths with her colleagues and housemate, suggest a lighter tale about modern dating, trust and romance. However, as the story progresses Danielle is confronted with information that leads her to think hard about courage and integrity. This crucial moment is heartbreakingly displayed through Danielle’s honest reaction to a horrifying set of circumstances, and the way Wright imbues the subsequent scenes with a pounding, almost palpable sense of panic. That this is shortly followed up with credibly sincere dialogue on a sensitive matter only makes it more relatable and compelling.
The finale, I Am Maria, stars Lesley Manville as a woman celebrating her 60th birthday. It’s a performance that sits somewhere in between Manville’s turn as Mary from Mike Leigh’s Another Year and a houmous obsessed, middle-class version of her character from TV series Mum if she just told everyone to do one. Manville plays Maria as equally stubborn and tender, ratcheting up the tension with each awkward encounter and making her desire for freedom entirely plausible, anxiety inducing and absolutely thrilling. You never quite know what Maria will do next. Will she up and quit her job? Leave her husband? Go on a road trip and find herself? The fun is in finding out how she goes about navigating this pivotal moment in her life.
Each short film in the anthology plays out with unpredictable gusto thanks to exquisitely raw performances and nifty camera work that heightens the powerful depictions of confusion, liberation and joy. Together, this second trilogy provides insightful snapshots of the gloriously messy nature of life, tackling themes of mental health, sexual assault, empowerment and desire, and all refreshingly told from a woman’s perspective.