Despite starting off like a rather humdrum paint-by-numbers drama from ITV’s best-forgotten past, Love Life eventually developed into what looks like being a genuinely touching romance with more originality than is first apparent. Focusing on a couple who are still very much in love, but want very different things, this drama from Lark Rise To Candleford writer Bill Gallagher could be a grower.
We open with Joe (Rob James-Collier) getting off a plane after an eleven month trip around the world only to find that the girl he left behind (she kept pestering him to settle down) is heavily and mysteriously pregnant. It took me nearly 15 minutes to get used to seeing him not wearing livery and smoking in a dark corner of Downton Abbey with O’Brien – a struggle that wasn’t helped by the fact that Joe didn’t look like he’d been anywhere near a youth hostel, but once I got the hang of him in a pair of jeans, the clunky exposition had died down and it was starting to find a niché. What’s more, romantic drama seems to have been forgotten of late (it’s all costumes and conspiracies!) so it was nice to see something with a bit of heart.
On paper these two characters look like morbidly stereotypical beings, one a bloke who quite literally runs for the hills when someone mentions commitment and the other a nagging woman who wants to tie her man down with a sprog, but they eventually emerge from these boring templates to great effect. Andrea Lowe, who plays a massive Lucy, is particularly good as the plot’s fulcrum and she conveys the conflict of loving one man and being pregnant by another while living with her unreliable dad (Gregor Fisher) with pathos.
Yet despite an interesting dynamic, what pushes Love Life away from mediocrity is the introduction of an even more interesting support couple in the form of Dominic and Penny (played by Alexander Armstrong and the fretful Sophie Thompson – whom you may recognise from Four Weddings). After watching the ‘Coming Next’ VT, it seems safe to say that she’s going to become a right bunny boiler..