There is a strange, kind of ethereal atmosphere to these Dates films. They’re quite different to most of what is on TV. I’ve enjoyed both so far, but I imagine you need to be in the right mood to watch them.
Episode two followed a date between Sheridan Smith’s Jenny and Neil Maskell’s Nick. The two weighed each other up over the course of a meal and we got a little insight into both characters, before Nick fucked a male waiter in the bathroom and Jenny stole his wallet in revenge. Boy, that escalated quickly.
The episode was nicely bookended with two scenes of Jenny entering and leaving the tube; low on money and then flush having stolen Nick’s wallet. It was basically a neat little short story.
The characters were interesting and realistic. Jenny is a compulsive thief, and while that is quite a broad piece of characterisation it was introduced delicately, with understated details like the wrist band she used to distract herself.
Maskell was more natural up until he fucked the waiter. It comes out of nowhere really but I’m willing to give leeway to the storytelling in what is effectively a short film.
Maskell is a great actor. I’ve seen him in just four things – Kill List, Utopia, The Mimic and, now, this – and in each he has been outstanding, embodying characters distinct from each other. Here, he conveys someone hung-up on his past but manages to sell what is quite a clichéd trope – a guy on a date hung up on his ex – via a natural delivery of the dialogue.
Smith is another good actor though I’ve not quite jumped on board the hype train that’s been rolling for a few months now. She makes Jenny a likable character and depicts a slight vulnerability beneath the surface.
Mostly, I like the tone of these films, and the directing. The music and the filming created a really strange and elusive atmosphere to the episode.
The show is not without flaws though. The mumbling dialogue used to suggest naturalism makes it at times hard to understand what the characters are saying. And the plot this episode really was a bit absurd, taking a bizarre and sudden direction. But I enjoyed it, and the characters were interesting, and the tone resulted in an episode which lingered in the memory after it was over.
- A heads up: I might not review every episode of Dates. I watched this one mainly for the actors but I’m not sure I’m going to catch all of the nine episodes.
- Tomorrow’s episode brings back Mia from episode one. It could be interesting to see if such an annoying character can still be enjoyable to watch across another 30 minutes.