The Russell T. Davies miniseries Years and Years is a …

The Russell T. Davies miniseries Years and Years is a …

The easy pitch for the new HBO / BBC co-production. Years and years could be “What if Black mirrorBut a family drama? “But the most accurate tone could be” What if Black mirrorBut with a full, beating heart? “That is not intended to be a hit on Charlie Brooker’s anthology series on dystopian futures. It’s more of an appreciation of what creator Russell T. Davies has been able to accomplish with his six-episode limited series, which opens Monday, April 24. June on HBO (His run on BBC One recently concluded.)

Years and years kicks off in 2019, with a focus on Lyons’ complicated intergenerational clan: Muriel (Anne Reid), her grandchildren Edith (Jessica Hynes), Stephen (Rory Kinnear), Daniel (Russell Tovey) and Rosie (Ruth Madeley), and their variety . husbands and children, including Stephen’s wife, Celeste (T’Nia Miller), and their daughter Bethany (Lydia West). The story simply begins for these Brits, with the birth of Rosie’s second child, Lincoln, and the first public appearance of rising UK politics, Vivian Rook (Emma Thompson). But then the show moves forward, in progressive leaps to the year 2034. Segments along the way follow the dramatic changes in global politics and technology, and consider how they affect the Lyons family.

The impact of international events on individual lives is a key aspect of the series, and gives Years and years much of its subtle (and overt) power. It’s one thing to see a report on a country’s banking crisis, it’s another to see an increasingly familiar family lose their home as a result. Hearing about refugees being deported is an abstraction: watching a loving couple forcibly separated by the government is a powerful moment of empathy.

Using the Lyons family as a magnifying glass for current events gives Years and years A shocking immediacy. Over the course of six episodes, horror accumulates about what may happen in the next 15 years. But it also brings hints of wonder and hope, taking a positive view of what humanity is capable of even in the darkest of times.

As well as in Black mirror, technology is not the enemy in Years and years. As time passes mobile and desktop interfaces enter the third dimension and are integrated into the human brain, the changing nature of agriculture leads to the evolution of synthetic foods and beverages, and even the ways in which they People put their loved ones to rest begin to change. . But innovations and changing technology are not Davies’s focus here, even on an allegorical level. Changes in the world are an integral part of a story that is deeply rooted in its characters.

It’s also a unique and inclusive set of characters that brings a bank from a deep cast to life. Emma Thompson is pausing in her brief screen time as a political figure whose inner life remains a mystery. She is a politician for a modern, Trump-centric era: a maverick who makes polarizing appearances and uses the extreme skill of the media to reclaim center stage. He’s not the star of the series though, he’s a title that any of the actors on the set could claim, given the caliber of the cast and the distribution of the plot approach.

Photo: Robert Ludovic / HBO

Tovey, as a board officer who disengages his comfortable relationship for a new passion, carries much of the heart of the program with him. Hynes fully embodies the role of the fearless rebel, as an activist whose determination to fight the world is perfectly balanced by Kinnear and Miller, as parents who just want to create the best possible life for their teenage daughters. And Reid as the family matriarch is given clichΓ©d moments that can only be followed by “Oh silly grandma”, but he also gets some of the series’ most haunting monologues, capturing the anxiety and nostalgia of the older generation nervous about increasingly difficult times.

Many family dramas struggle with inclusive casting, but in Years and yearsDavies strives to avoid that, and not just around racial representation. Wheelchair user Madeley is a charming and compelling artist who deserves much more work. Lydia West, as Stephen and Celeste’s little daughter Bethany, who initially aspires to a transhumanist lifestyle, is just beginning her career. But her bright energy and her ability to show Bethany’s evolution from angry teenager to confident youngster indicates her real potential to become a big star.

Davies, meanwhile, has had a long career as a television writer, working since the early 1990s in a variety of genres before becoming the key to several iconic series. For fans of Davies writing through his creation of the innovative and passionate character play. Queer as folk, or his role in reviving the iconic British series. Doctor who for the world of modern television, Years and yearsThe inherent darkness could be surprising.

But one of Davies’ most profound jobs as a writer was season 4. Doctor who the episode “Turn Left”, which presents an alternate reality in which the Doctor (David Tennant, at the time) dies before his time, and the entire universe is slowly but surely going to waste as a result. “Turn Left” does not skimp on dystopia, and one of its focuses is the growing xenophobia that eventually leads to non-British citizens being imprisoned in camps. “Turn Left”, which aired in 2008, now seems prescient.

Photo: Matt Squire / HBO

Refugee camps are an important factor in Years and years Also, which is where the show hits one of its biggest drawbacks. Seeing the debates set forth in the future about refugee internment camps feels out of date with the fact that at this exact moment, Americans are debating whether the term “concentration camp” is applicable to the containment zones that the government of the United States has created for asylum. -the search engines.

While the show is set in the future, many of the steadily declining dominoes that lead to the increasing darkness of this series, especially when it comes to the political rise of extremist governments and the increasingly inevitable threat of climate change, are vivid current concerns, not future ones. The discussions that inspire on the show have a real impact, but sometimes collide with the idea that this is a possible consequence looming over us, rather than a showcase of where we are already today.

The immediate relevance of Years and yearsHowever, the political arguments drive a strong emotional commitment to the series. Davies may not be imaginative enough about what the future might hold, but he’s tackling current events with immediate and raw intensity. With each major monologue and montage of world events, his series conveys a deep-seated frustration that permeates almost every scene and speech. That voice is hoarse, tired of yelling about ice caps, extremist politics, and the way empathy for others dwindles as life gets more difficult and human interactions get more transactional.

But Years and years It still takes time for a moment of drunken joy, set in the indefatigable musical styles of Chumbawamba. This is not a show about the inevitable horrors of the future, it is about a family doing everything possible to get ahead. And even the worst characters, who make their worst choices, are clearly and richly human, in a way that underscores the need for empathy and understanding.

Years and years It wasn’t a massive hit in the UK, despite Thompson’s star power, and it could be in danger of falling under the radar in America as well. (Maybe not enough people saw Jessica Hynes in the classic British comedy Spacing, or appreciate Russell Tovey’s work on HBO Looking.) But it deserves more attention, both for its execution and for its good intentions.

More than five seasons and several special episodes, Black mirror has used its roughly hour-long format to attract audiences with independent scenarios about how technology is affecting us now and how it might happen in the future. But Years and years uses the very specific problems of the Lyons family to get viewers to examine, in a general way, how the choices made today affect tomorrow. The series suggests that change is only possible when people take conscious and decisive action, even if they just make sure to pay attention to what happens without them. Not everyone will get involved with the message of this show, but given how loud it is shouting, people should take advantage of this moment, this relevant political moment, to hear what Davies is saying.

Years and years premieres on HBO on June 24, 2019 at 9 p.m. ET.