Motherland Review

by F. Walden

*** 3 Stars

She was the only character I found myself rooting for after the episode.

Actors: Anna Maxwell-Martin, Diane Morgan, Lucy Punch, Paul Ready

Synopsis: As a new school year begins, a new mum at the school gates attracts the attention of parents Julia, Liz and Kevin. Meanwhile, Julia is struggling to keep her head above water at work when she is offered the choice of promotion or redundancy.

Having not seen the first season of Motherland I was worried that I would not be able to follow its second season. But to anyone that has had the delight of witnessing the war zone that is parents at the primary school gates, the format is pretty easy to pick up.

The series follows frantic working mother Julia (Maxwell-Martin), whose bitterness and exasperation, I assume, makes her the most relatable to other struggling parents. Julia clings to her tight-knit trio which includes single mum Liz (Morgan), the true hero of the show. Her total disinterest in the petty competition between school mums, and gems of wisdom such as: “Life’s too short to mess about with aubergines”, make her performance the most enjoyable to watch. She was the only character I found myself rooting for after the episode.

The other performances are brilliantly executed, but most of the characters are somewhat unlikable. This is particularly true of the third member of this group of misfits; bumbling stay-at-home dad Kevin (Ready) who’s difficulty to manoeuvre social situations, which I suppose is to make him sweetly charming, just makes him a bit irritating. The three band together against the Mean Girls group of A-list mums, headed by the wonderfully unbearable Amanda (Punch), which is quite a fitting name for the actress, as that’s exactly what the audience would like to do to her character.

What throws the spanner into the works of this dynamic is the introduction of new mum, Meg (Tanya Moodie). She is a high-flying executive who still has time to manage her family, and get absolutely sloshed on her regular nights out. She seemingly violates the first rule of Motherland; that it is impossible to ‘have it all’. Julia becomes immediately envious of Meg and attempts to reveal her “secret sadness” to no avail. When Amanda chides her for being unfeminist, she replies that “I thought we all agreed, as feminists, that nowadays it’s unfeminist to have it all”.

The series is obviously aimed towards white middle-class mothers, who will have the most to gain from watching it. But as someone who is not, it still elicited a few good laughs. Whilst the show has a significant diversity issue, the writing is funny and delivered-well by a comedically talented cast. The struggling parent cliché has been done before, and better (it’s no Outnumbered). But it has also been done worse (it’s no Bad Moms). Overall, Motherhood is witty and realistic, and probably very cathartic to parents in similar circumstances as the characters, who have had to brave toxic playground drama day after day.

Motherland is currently available on BBC iPlayer and was rated 12 by the BBFC.

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