The first chapter of Any Human Heart was the best Channel 4 debut since This is England ’86, with its glamorous illustration of bohemian living and its endless supply of pink gin. We were treated to a highly sexually-charged caper through Mountstuart’s life, and William Boyd’s protagonist was getting through more women than the England football team on a lads holiday in Ibiza. However, a couple of hours in and the series has transformed into a darker, heart-rending deconstruction of Logan Mountstuart, as he finds himself an old man rummaging through memories of a tortured past.
Sadly, now that we’ve reached the penultimate episode, Logan Mountstuart’s greatest relationship is with alcohol; the writer even adds gin to his beer in order to disguise his dependence on booze. Plagued by the deaths of wife Freya and their daughter Stella, our subject sees hallucinations of his former wife, and actor Matthew Macfayden plays him superbly. As a series of unfortunate events take place (his wife leaves him and his son Lionel overdoses) the oversexed author is forced to leave New York for London after bedding sixteen-year-old Monday. Fairy godfather Ben provides a humorous presence as he is continually forced to save the nymphomaniac, amazed by how incapable his college pal is at keeping it in his trousers.
Ben is just one of the brilliant personalities in Any Human Heart. Boyd’s plethora of intriguingly flawed characters are depicted well, with outstanding performances from all of the cast, particularly Jim Broadbent as the old Mountstuart. In this third episode, Kim Cattrall as Gloria is a playful, fervid edition to Mountstuart’s life. The relationship between them begins as a purely physical one, but as he grows older Gloria returns to live out her dying days with the only man who really seems to accept her. To see her lose her fight to cancer whilst eating caviar, drinking champagne and gorging on kumquats tells us all we need to know about the provocative Countess and their love affair becomes a truly beautiful friendship.
Boyd has executed the transition from highly-acclaimed novel to four-part television series with effortless class. In choosing to attempt to make the adaptation, the author took on considerable risk. Fans would have already conjured up images and mannerisms of the Any Human Heart characters, and to get these wrong on-screen could potentially destroy a greatly loved novel for many readers. Luckily, Boyd has successfully managed to appease most admirers of the book whilst inspiring others to pick up the book. This charming adaptation is genuinely a pleasure to watch.