Josephine Hart’s 1991 novel Damage was the Fifty Shades of its day, “only much darker and much more elegantly written”, said Helen Brown in The Daily Telegraph. It was made into a film starring Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche, and now Netflix has turned it into a four-part TV series – with “disappointingly cringeworthy” results.
Richard Armitage plays William, a brain surgeon who lives in a beautiful home with his “sexy barrister wife” (Indira Varma). At a party, however, he “locks eyes” with his son’s girlfriend Anna (Charlie Murphy) and “wordlessly inserts a rather small, grey cocktail olive into her open mouth”. And thus “the romp begins”. The two leads turn in “admirably committed performances”, but the series has all the subtlety of a US soap opera.
Anna and William’s affair is meant to be torrid and tempestuous, but it mainly looks like “a chore”, said Barbara Ellen in The Observer. When they first get together “on the fabulous polished floor of a borrowed flat”, they clamp each other “like erotic Lego”. Later, “they sombrely copulate in toilets”, and rut “mechanically” in alleyways. Even when they dip their toes into bondage, it’s like watching “AI sex robots attempt to play strip Twister”.
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The “grunty shagging” is ultimately quite “depressing”, agreed Jessie Thompson in The Independent; the script lacks “insight”; there’s too much “foreboding string music”, and “the thinly drawn, two-dimensional characters leave the actors helplessly stranded”. It’s deeply unerotic, but sometimes unintentionally funny.
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