The male midlife crisis gets a lot of press. In I Am Maria (Channel 4), we had the female version. “I’m not in my late 20s or early 30s but I am absolutely in my prime. My prime. And I’m not going to waste it,” said Maria, whose 60th birthday proved to be the tipping point.
This was the last of Dominic Savage’s latest trio of dramas about unhappy women, and featured an acting masterclass from Lesley Manville. If you were a male viewer, you might have wondered what her Maria was so unhappy about.
There were faint echoes of Shirley Valentine here – albeit with hummus and white wine in place of chips and egg – but Maria wasn’t married to a monstrous man. John (Michael Gould) had the odd passive-aggressive moment but was essentially a good egg who adored his wife.
He had champagne on ice when she came back from the office, bought her a lovely painting for her birthday, cooked his signature spaghetti bolognese. Trouble was, Maria was bored with the bolognese and bored with John, and the way he liked everything – from sex to pasta – to be comfortingly predictable.
The improvised dialogue between them felt raw and real, with Manville on commanding form as things came to a head over an excruciating family lunch. A single camera followed the pair around as they argued. This must be how a marriage counsellor feels, watching a couple fall apart in front of them and itching to offer advice.