Set in a very familiar future, the Stan Original Series The Commons is a gripping character-driven relationship drama and a story about motherhood as the ultimate act of faith in humanity. If it wasn’t for the futuristic technicalities, this somewhat too frighteningly realistic series could take place in today’s Sydney, going through climate change.

Taking us into a technologically advanced world where every household is still trying to adapt and survive in an ecologically challenging environment, is Eadie (Golden Globe winner Joanne Froggatt). This brain doctor is desperately trying to become a mother, but with time running out for her, she reaches for the most desperate ways to get pregnant. Brave as she is, she’ll come face-to-face with border patrol and those that don’t have legal papers to stay in a capitalist country, and a new incurable disease, transmitted by the tiniest bugs.

Written and created by AACTA Award-winner Shelley Birse (The Code), The Commons is refreshing and exceptionally relevant, tackling today’s ecological climate, never overlooking human nature and the great lengths we go to for any sort of compassionate connection. Birse knows what will linger with today’s tv-watching crowd and mixes it with authentic brave drama that might be all too familiar for some of us. Slowly but surely, the story develops into a more character-focused family drama with the climatic danger from the first two episodes lurking in the background. The tonal consistency is there, although those that hope for more of what gets presented in the earlier episodes, might come out of this somewhat disappointed.

The focus lies mostly with Froggatt’s character Eadie, who is struggling with her age and the difficulties that come with it. Her husband (played by Safe Haven‘s David Lyons) is a scientist running-out-of-time to find a cure, to an ever-expanding epidemic of a by-bug-transferrable disease that’s slowly killing communities. Right by his side is good friend and co-worker Shay (played by Ryan Corr). Froggatt, well known for her role as maid Anna Bates in Downton Abbey, gives one of the finest dramatic performances of her career. She seems confident in her role and gives it her all. Co-star Corr, is turning out to be more than just a rising star, clearly establishing himself as a well-rounded talented actor, surprising us here with a more nuanced side we rarely see of him. Damon Herriman plays a character with PTSD, who eventually has an important part to play in the first season’s final episode.

The Commons‘ story gets supported by a wonderful score, and Earle Dresner‘s (Glitch) tremendous cinematography captures Sydney in a futuristic style. Many shots with what is clearly edited with some incredible special effects, look as realistic as the real bushfires raging across Australia at the moment. This series couldn’t have come at a better time – reminding us of the daily struggle we face with changing climates, capitalist governments and the challenges of keeping humanity strong within our own communities. The Commons is a new breed of top-notch Australian drama for the more sophisticated viewer.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Stan Originals Review – ‘The Commons: Season 1’

Reviewed on Stan, Sydney, Dec. 26, 2019. Australian Classification: M. Running time: 8 x 45 min.

PRODUCTION: A Stan release of a Playmaker Media production. Producer: Diane Haddon. Line-producer: Ross Allsop.

CREW: Directors: Jeffrey Walker, Jennifer Leacey, Rowan Woods. Creator/writer: Shelley Birse. Camera (color, widescreen): Earle Dresner. Editor: Geoff Lamb.

CAST: Joanne Froggatt, Ryan Corr, David Lyons, Inez Currõ, Simone McAullay, Dominic Ona-Ariki, Rupert Penry-Jones, John Waters, Fayssal Bazzi, Andrea Demetriades.

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