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'The soulful new Netflix drama I accidentally devoured in just one weekend.'

I had big plans last weekend.

Big plans of binge-watching the entire season of Bodyguard, the hit British TV drama that landed on Netflix on Wednesday.

(You are understandably wondering why I’m discussing a show completely different to the show you clicked in to read about. It’ll make sense shortly.)

But these plans got derailed when, as I was scrolling through the streaming platform, I got distracted by Toni Collette‘s face in Wanderlust, a new drama about a married couple who decide to trial an open relationship.

I partially rolled my eyes at Netflix’s trailer – it appeared to me to be just another unrealistic, shallow and gratuitously sex-riddled caricature of a struggling marriage.

Watch the full trailer in the video below. Post continues after.

Video by Netflix

But Collette’s talent is a dream to watch on screen. So I allowed episode one to play on, thinking I’d just watch the first 10 minutes before reverting back to my original plan.

But before I knew it, I’d spent six hours of my life devouring the entire first season. My initial assessment was so, so very wrong. This is a show that goes deep. Far deeper than you’d expect.

The BBC series is centred on a longtime married couple, therapist Joy Richards (Toni Collette) and her teacher husband Alan (Steven Mackintosh). From the outside, their life would appear idyllic: lovely home, healthy young-adult children, solid careers, a long wedded relationship. But in the bedroom, things aren’t so perfect. Following a bicycle accident, Joy finds herself completely disinterested in any intimacy with her husband.

In a bid to save their marriage, they agree to experiment sleeping with other people so their physical needs are satisfied, while still maintaining their relationship. They hope that in doing so, it could even bring back the spark and their desire for each other.

Alan, Joy and their children. Image: Netflix/BBC. wanderlust
Alan, Joy and their children. Image: Netflix/BBC.

What follows is - yes - a lot of sex scenes, as Joy and Alan experience the thrill of the new partners. But this is not intended to be just a raunchy midlife crisis fantasy.

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The series challenges itself to explore complicated questions about monogamy, love and sex. Like, how should they navigate telling their children? How do they keep this from friends and colleagues, and what happens if they find out? What if their feelings for their lovers deepen? How can Joy be counselling couples as a therapist if she herself has relationship troubles? And can extra-marital sex really be the answer to a happy marriage?

More importantly, as things progress, you learn Joy's easy-breezy demeanour is a facade.

She is eventually forced to confront a sorrow she has been burying and the vulnerabilities she has been masking with sex. It's an unravelling that Collette performs masterfully. One episode in particular consists entirely of a session between Joy and her own therapist, complete with raw admissions, careful analysis of past and present, and uncomfortable silences that are breathtakingly long.

The series is worth watching if only for this brilliant episode of television.

wanderlust
Image: Netflix/BBC.

Wanderlust is also not just restricted to the love lives of Joy and Alan. The relationships of their children have their own subplots, as do those of their neighbours, and Joy's clients.

Oh, and the fashion worn by the two leading ladies, Toni Collette and Zawe Ashton, deserves an honourable mention. It is freaking glorious.

Yes, you will feel that some aspects of Joy and Alan's open relationship are far-fetched. But here, the good far outweighs the bad. This is not some poor excuse for soft porn. This is a drama that richly explores the role of relationships, and a few things will happen: You will be sucked in by the characters; you will question what makes a 'healthy' relationship; you will fall in love with Toni Collette all over again; and, above all, you will be pleasantly surprised.

So much so, you might just end up unintentionally watching all six episodes in one weekend like I did.

All six episodes of Wanderlust are available now on Netflix. The show is rated  MA 15+. 

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