TV review: Flowers, Channel 4 (4 stars)

Julian Barratt and Olivia Colman in Flowers

Wilfully oddball comedy-drama that blooms into something curiously beautiful

If you had to stick your neck out by judging Flowers solely on its initial couple of episodes (as telly critics routinely have to do with any series), the verdict would look a bit silly in hindsight. After starting off with a bunch of self-consciously weird characters acting all weird and self-conscious (imagine if Wes Anderson was script editor on This Is Jinsy), the last two episodes snake in with an emotional heft which is barely hinted at early on.

Olivia Colman and Julian Barratt play Deborah and Maurice Flowers, a bored-to-tears married couple living in chaotic rural surroundings and looking desperately around for any excuse to carry on. Deborah is strait-laced but suggestible, Maurice is laconic misery personified. They attempt to have feelings for their off-kilter offspring, Sophia Di Martino’s Amy (who creates dark piano works and dreadful poetry) and Daniel Rigby’s Donald (an inventor of unworkable things such as an extreme coffee machine and cobbled-together flying car) but no one is close to being genuinely happy at any point.

Among the equally ‘larger-than-life’ supporting cast are Angus Wright who played a curious sort on Peep Show and goes the extra mile here as the sex-addicted George, while Shakespearean actor Colin Hurley mugs up nicely as a builder and grieving widower. Both carry different styles of torches for Deborah but neither seem likely to get anywhere with their ardour.

Flowers is written and directed by the way-too-young looking Will Sharpe, who also appears as an oddball Japanese illustrator hired by Maurice for his previously successful children’s books series called The Grubbs. Barratt is terrific in portraying restrained despair with a confused smirk or furrow of his brow, but Colman is, as per usual, wholly brilliant in expressing several emotions at once.

While the opening episodes are just a little too manically obtuse for their own good, there’s never doubting the writing’s dynamic vitality. And when some haunting and moving moments are layered on as we creep towards the conclusion, it’s clear that Sharpe has a distinctive talent that is slowly starting to bloom.

Flowers is on Channel 4, Mon 25–Fri 29 Apr, 10pm