This is Us
Cast - Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K Brown, Chrissy Metz
Rating - 4/5
There’s something that connects us, something that sets off a chemical reaction, tells the nerves to transmit messages, brings colour to our cheeks, or evokes an emotion.
This is Us is that something. It is alike experiencing every positive feeling in the little dots of connection. It is the warmth you return to after a long day, sipping your favourite coffee cosily. It is also the best friend you call at 3 am when you’re lonely. It is the rustic smell of wet earth after rain. It is, if you haven’t noticed already, a show for yesteryear, of the yesteryear.
The show’s 18 episodes sift wonderfully between two generations, overlapping complex characters and three eras like sand flowing in an hourglass. It completes every part of the puzzle effortlessly, joining the family together in its quiet drama.
Kate, Kevin and Randall, “the three big ones”, are the origin of the story and everything flows from them. The producer Dan Fogelman traces back to the beginning, to how the siblings were conceived, and the thread innocuously shifts to their parents’ life, immersing in the couple’s almost perfect love. The expression changes, and there are the younger ‘Big 3’ until they return as toddlers again.
Each episode of This is Us transverses into lives, but never drowns in it. It connects each tendon, but leaves open ends to fill when the time arrives. It gives you the effect and not the cause, and that is the show’s greatest achievement.
Even without a cliff-hanger or a mystery, even when everything is coming to a close, you still follow the journey despite being aware of its genesis. All of it folds together in a pattern of butterfly effect, churning out its destination in every step of the journey.
This is Us’ structure, similar to Fogelman’s screenplay in Crazy Stupid Love, is the most finely crafted piece in the block art that it is. But it doesn’t do to keep marvelling at the outline and not the elements that fill up the spaces. Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley and Sterling K Brown seem to have slipped into their imperfect roles. They look, feel and talk like they really are Kate, Kevin and Randall -- breathing their insecurities and dreams to the viewer. Even more endearing is the dependable Mandy Moore who keeps her cherry and sassy persona (think of Princess Diaries, Chasing Liberty and A Walk to Remember) alive as Rebecca, a singer, a mother and a wife.
Each statement, each expression is telling of a screenplay that defiantly shuns larger-than-life characters, and pours them out as real people living their ordinarily extraordinary lives. All of them complete each other, yet they stand apart, bits and pieces of them scraped with experiences. The camera often finds itself capturing silhouettes bathed in soft shades of sunlight. This is Us is a silhouette that could be you, me and all of us.
Yet, better parts of This is Us are its little diversions. It occasionally distracts from the family and takes a dip into the plot’s supporting arms — the doctor who delivered Rebecca’s babies, or the fireman who found Randall abandoned outside the station. These are the silent heroes who inadvertently leave imprints on strangers’ lives. These are the stories of the blurry background figures in a sonder saga that set off chain of events without either of them recognising it. Their stories, like all stories, deserve a chance to be told.
There’s a tiny condition for enjoying This is Us. The show will resonate for you if your 21st century soul is battered dry from political, detective, mental thrillers and dystopias that have crowded your life. After all, the Trump-ian era isn’t a great time to live in. That’s why This is Us is for believing in something again, and laughing, and crying.