Michaela Coel is one of the most surprising, uncompromising and powerful filmmakers that I have seen in the past few years.
Her new series, I May Destroy You, truly feels like a kind of revolutionary, watershed moment for television, and more broadly, filmmaking.
It follows the life of Arabella Essiedu, a Rupi Kaur-type Twitter writer (but less hackneyed) who lands a book deal with a publishing house. It doesn’t really matter if you’re not interested by the premise of the show, the weight of experience, fragility and truth propel this show into the stratosphere of great filmmaking. The premise is not what the show is actually about, it’s a basic line from which to hang the powerful experiences and stories that Coel needs to tell. I don’t want to give too much of the plotting away, because experiencing the twists and turns of this series is a real pleasure.
This is a show that is so uncompromising, and so original, that it's quite strange to compare it to the normal, sanitised television we are so accustomed to. Mainstream television (yes, I’m looking at you: The Office, Stranger Things, Suits etc.) never even touches the surface of these everyday things that are taboo in the realm of filmmaking. HBO’s Euphoria and Netflix’s Sex Education seem to give an inkling of real issues in the lives of young people in the modern world, but they never quite rise above staple comedy or teen drama. I May Destroy You just goes all-out and never even looks back. There are scenes of sex with period blood clots, rapes, pegging, and faked sexual assaults. But they aren’t there for shock-value, they’re intelligently explored, bringing balanced perspectives with fascinating character dynamics.