This Way Up

Photograph: Channel 4
Rating 7.9
Streamer All4
Seasons 2
Episodes 12 x 25 mins

Looking for a new show with lots of laughs, musings on mental health and an utterly relatable bond between sisters? No, we’re not here to tell you to rewatch Fleabag, we’re here to let you know about this brilliantly hilarious series from Aisling Bea, which is back.

In season one, we first met Aine (Bea) as she was being signed out of a rehab centre following a nervous breakdown. Luckily her sister Shona (Sharon Horgan) is there to pick her up, and to suggest to the receptionist that the centre add some jazzy new features, like a Jacuzzi and a snack bar, before taking Aine home where she will attempt to piece her life back together. Obviously, it’s not going to come easy – there’s hiccups, flashbacks, emotional turmoil and the societal pressures of being a single woman in her 40s. Things aren’t always easy for Sharon, either. The emotional weight of caring for her troubled sister is sometimes too much to bear, and she’s burdened by the need to keep it together for the both of them. But it’s definitely not all doom and gloom – This Way Up is as much about unconditional sisterly love as it is mental health, and it’s also a showcase for some cracking jokes.

If you like this, you’ll love Fleabag

That’s how these two are going to heal from their difficulties – by deflection through humour. And luckily for them, it seems to work, as when we re-join them for season two, both of them are in much better spirits. Thankfully, their improved mental state doesn’t come at the cost of the comedy, and both seasons deliver consistently brilliant laughs which seem completely natural and effortless. That’s thanks to both Bea’s fantastic writing and the superb chemistry between her and Horgan, whose bickering and sisterly gibes are so believable that you almost wonder whether they’re related in real life.

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When tackling such a big subject as mental health, it’s fairly easy for writers to misstep, either offending viewers or finding themselves amongst the growing list of cancelled comedians, but Bea is in no such danger here. The topic is handled sensitively and honestly, showing the changeable nature of mental wellbeing, and exploring the impact not only on the people who are suffering, but those who support them. It’s a really heartfelt portrayal of life and its woes, and with the excellence of the jokes on top, this is a fine bit of telly.

The critics have been enjoying it, too. The Independent’s Ed Cumming says “the writing is sharp and well observed, probing the fault lines between small talk and real problems,” whilst Isobel Lewis for the same paper says season two “somehow manages to be funnier, kinder and more heartbreaking than its predecessor, and is a perfect testament to Bea’s talent.” Lucy Mangan in The Guardian agrees, giving the second serving five stars and saying “Bea and Horgan’s chemistry is as glorious as ever.” She adds, “the best thing of all about This Way Up is that we don’t know what is going to happen next. Bea’s is such a nuanced, delicate portrait of mental health that Aine is neither a one-note self-sabotager, or manic, or depressive… She is a real person and, as such, she could go anywhere or do anything depending on when and if her circumstances change.” However The Telegraph’s Anita Singh gave it just three stars, saying “there was little to grab attention by way of storylines,” though she admits “watching it feels like falling back into the company of your most sarcastic girlfriends.”

First shown August 2019. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.

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