Chauvinism, one-upmanship and passive loathing form the main themes of ITVâs latest three-part thriller The Last Weekend, a miniseries based on the Blake Morrison novel. Rupert Penry-Jones and Shaun Evans star as former University, or âcollegeâ as the show insists on calling it, pals Ollie and Ian, who along with their wives Daisy and Em arrive for a weekend of exchanging stern looks in an unloved cottage in rural Suffolk.
It soon transpires that this is no romantic or pleasantly reminiscent break for the two couples however, as the men take part in an annual wager over who wins a triathlon that spans the entirety of the three-day August bank holiday break with its disciplines. A round of golf promptly ensues, so far, so middle-class.
There does appear to be a much darker side to the show from the off though and it’s cleverly interwoven into the dramaâs breezy opening scene in which Ian and Em break-down on a country lane while en route. In the midst of much hot-day tomfoolery, Ian breaks the fourth wall and delivers a menacing direct-address monologue as the action shifts briefly forward three months. Monologues and flashbacks then become a narrative fixture as weâre shown the flipsides of seemingly nice rich-guy Ollie and conceited primary-school teacher Ian.
Clever though the flashbacks and direct addresses undoubtedly were, both devices were overused to hammer home the fact that all was not what it seemed with the two friends. This was a factor that was also unendingly foregrounded by clunky dialogue that even the X Factor judges would shudder at. âReturning to the place where bad things happen is unsettlingâ? muses Ian, in one particularly po-faced instance.
The showâs main secret, that Ollie is suffering from an inoperable brain-tumour, provides The Last Weekend with its sole shock moment as Ollie informs Ian that receiving the news has left him without a conscience and if he murdered someone he âwould not feel a thingâ?. This is really the only time when The Last Weekend even begins to resemble a âthrillerâ, the genre to which it professes to be a part of. For the rest of the time it feels like a stilted, filmed play which lacks pace and originality. The show is undoubtedly unpredictable, but it isnât engaging enough to ensure that youâll stick around to see where the weekend leads.