Rebecca smiles, looking at the two washing machines in the basement of the house. She remembers when the three children were small and those washing machines worked at full speed. She also remembers how many times her husband, Jack, had to come in and try to repair them, in the middle of the foam that poured out uncontrollably.
This is one of the many attentions paid to the familiar habits of which This Is Us, a new Family Drama recently released, depicts. The series can be considered timeless, in the sense that it does not develop the relationship of the three brothers and their parents in a linear way, starting from the beginning, in the 80s, to arrive in present day, but rather passes easily from the present to the past precisely because what counts most is the isolated emotional moment that is created : be it the moment when the spouses, after having fought, reconcile or the wise advice that one brother gives to another or why the Big Three are finally reunited for Christmas or Thanksgiving. The leaps in time follow a logical path, that of thematic consistency. Each episode, implicitly, follows a specific theme that also serves to underline how intertwined the lives of the members of a family are: a decision made in the past ends up affecting the present; and the memory of what happened, whether it be good or bad, ends up conditioning the present situation.
In some episodes even religion makes an appearance: little Kevin, who learned from his mother that Christmas is not just a gift but that it is a "matter that concerns Jesus," goes to a shop of religious items and, among many statues of Mother Mary and the saints, asks the clerk: "Which is the one that helps you pray better?". Another beautiful episode is that of the fireman who recalls the time young Randal, abandoned at the door of the barracks, being a good man, then goes to confession to talk about his time of marital crisis and asks the priest for the "miracle" of their reconciliation. This is surely a thematic encapsulation that does not have a serious impact on the narrative itself; what has more relevance is the "religion of man,” like that of wisdom on good behavior that is frequently expressed with phrases that do not hide their solemnity and that almost in every episode, are stated by the protagonists. Dr. K turns to the distraught Jack, after the death of the third brother, to remind him that it is necessary to turn a sour lemon into lemonade and suggests he adopt the newborn baby just brought to hospital. The same Dr. K, in meeting ten-year-old Randal, points out that: "if you will find a great way to show someone the same goodness that you have been shown, this will be the most beautiful gift that you could do for me.”
There is still plenty of yielding to current trends: among the protagonists there is also a bisexual, a situation that is used to make digs against homophobia; two others spend a night smoking marijuana, not without having clarified, maybe to reassure the public, that the doctors have declared that the consumption of marijuana does not produce any risk of addiction.
Overall, the series is able to offer us with intensity many moments of familial truths - even if sometimes it’s unable to avoid the commotion or the administration of daily pills truths about life.
The widespread use of psychological categories for the portrayal of the various characters leaves us a little unsettled: Kate seems to be defined only by the fact that she feels overweight; Kevin is a perpetually insecure man and obsessed – to the point of anxiety - of being successful as an actor, William was a drug addict, Jack often resorts to alcohol, and Randal feels obliged to adopt a child at all costs to reciprocate the generous gesture that his foster parents had done for him. Even his trying to be always helpful to everyone is not seen by his wife as a virtue but is perceived as "an obsession with perfection."
It is never a matter of proactive characters who have identified the objective of their own lives and pursue it with tenacity, but are only reactive in respect to what drives them and the conditioning received in childhood.
A critical judgment
The series values all the family affections (between spouses, between parents and children, between siblings) highlighting them as the sources to draw upon in order to have a happy life. From a technical point of view, it knows how to build moments of sincere emotion and intimate conversation even if it tends to stereotype the protagonists according to their peculiar characteristics.
The series has been aired on Fox Life since November 2016 and is now available on the platform Prime Video.