A genuine show that covers coming of age while mixing the comedy and seriousness of it all appropriately.
by Dan Brenic
It’s not often that we miss the latest and greatest thing on Netflix. Unfortunately, with Sex Education, we had gone on a self-imposed hiatus to prep for our best of 2018 episode and had previously decided to return with A Series of Unfortunate Events series finale. As such, we totally missed out on reviewing this on the show.
Nevertheless, Sex Education is centered around Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), a 16-year-old trying to navigate high school and all of its potential sexual pratfalls. Butterfield nails his character as a sexually stunted boy who is thrust into a role of sex therapist for high schoolers all while portraying an awkward teen still very much trying to figure it out on his own. Surrounding Butterfield are Gillian Anderson as his sex therapist mother who sometimes treats Otis more like a patient than a son, Ncuti Gatwa as Otis’s best friend Eric, a homosexual black man trying to figure out who he is and how to handle being so different to all of his classmates, and Emma Mackey as Maeve Wiley, a girl on the fringes of popularity due to her wariness of people letting her down and Otis’s love interest throughout the season. There are almost too many actors and characters to name as the show does a great job balancing its ensemble around the main cast. Even if some characters are on screen for a few minutes in the season, they all feel fleshed out and believable, which is a credit to both the writers and actors.
One area where the writing suffers is it can become cliched at times. A lot of issues that come from the characters is almost always a lack of communication. It’s a good lesson for any teenagers that watch the show to understand that communication is the foundation upon which every good relationship works but as someone who’s seen it consistently in romantic comedies, it gets a bit grating every time I see it. Otherwise, the writing is generally outstanding. Characters stay in character and develop into stronger characters as the show moves along. The bits of comedy are mixed well with the more serious moments of the show and neither feel out of place whenever they occur.
It's weird to say, but the cinematography is also worthy of praise. The unnamed fictional town where the show takes place is beautiful, and the camera takes full advantage of showing you how beautiful it is. There's also an interesting technique when a character is shown interacting with other characters all in a row. The camera will take the first-person point of view and follow each interaction until the character finally gets their instructions on where to go next. It's a nice little camera flourish that adds a bit of context as to who is being told what.
Call me crazy, but this is a great show that should be shown to high schoolers as a kind of guide for how to handle issues such as how to approach sex, waiting until the right time to have sex, finding out who you are, communicating with your partner, etc. Sometimes fiction based in reality can have more profound effects than someone merely regurgitating the same old ‘birds and the bees’ yarn.