TV Show Recommendation: Olive Kitteridge — Of Marriage and Relationships


Md Rifat Ahmed Riyad


Olive Kitteridge is an American television miniseries based on Elizabeth Strout’s 2008 novel Olive Kitteridge. Set in Maine, the HBO miniseries features Oscar-winner Frances McDormand as the title character, Richard Jenkins as Olive’s loving husband Henry Kitteridge, and Bill Murray as Jack Kennison. This four-part drama series was directed by Lisa Cholodenko, and has a 95% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The story revolves around the Kitteridge family, and as the name of the series suggests, it mainly focuses on Olive, how she is as a wife and a mother. As the series delves into her relationship with her husband and son, we see how badly she treats them, which she regrets later. This short series tells an authentic tale of the hardships of marriage, life’s misery, and the void that everyone constantly feels inside.

Olive Kitteridge is a mean, middle-aged woman who is always judgemental of the people around her. Even though she is an annoying person who has been rude to everyone for all her life, you can’t really hate her because that’s the way she is, because she doesn’t realise she is hurting people with her words. However, she realises it later like everyone does at some point in their lives.

On the other hand, Henry Kitteridge, is a stark contrast to her character; he is a very kind and congenial person, therefore, pleasant to be around. Throughout the series, whenever her husband wished her on any special day or said “I love you” to her, she always replied with a “You too.” She never said the exact words aloud, but when Henry is on his deathbed, she does! Lying beside him, she acknowledges that she had not been a good wife to him, but he still loved her anyway and says that she loves him. This unpredictable development in her character is very overwhelming.

With Henry’s death and her son not talking to her anymore, she loses the purpose to live, so she tries to kill herself, which we are shown in the opening scene of the first episode. Anyway, ultimately she fails to do so, and she meets another purposeless lonely person named Jack Kennison (Bill Murray) just like her, who also lost his life partner.

 

It’s obviously a sad story; we see unhappy relationships. It strikes as too real because not too many people are seen to be happy in their relationships. Here, both Olive and Henry at some point in their lives were on the verge of having affairs. Later, their son Christopher (John Gallagher Jr) is cheated on by his first wife, and then marries Ann (Audrey Marie Anderson), who has already been married twice and has two babies.

But these are not the only things that make this a sad story, it’s sad on a much deeper level; it’s sad because it reminds us that at some point in our lives, we’re going to be alone like Olive; like her, we’ll have no purpose to live, no one to hold on to. This train of thought can be associated with a brilliant miniseries named Afterlife by Ricky Gervais; the protagonist tries to kill himself after losing his wife to cancer. However, in the end, he snaps out of the idea of killing himself, and refocuses on living by finding a new purpose. But to think about Olive in Olive Kitteridge, at an old age if you lose your only companion, it’s hard to find a reason to live. Still we see the series ending with a positive note.

 

Lastly, I loved this series because it showed life in a much broader perspective, and it makes one think about one’s own life. Frances McDormand as Olive and Richard Jenkins as Henry brought their characters to life. It did not feel like watching their life, rather it felt like I was living it myself. If you’re in the mood to get all philosophical about life, and soaked in melancholy, I’d highly recommend this pure drama.

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