The Intrusively Accurate Anxiety of Pure
Honestly, I’m offended.
Deeply offended. How dare the Channel Four-show-fresh-on-Netflix, Pure, so blatantly rip off my personal life personally? To make a show about a twenty-four-year-old Scottish woman, recently diagnosed with OCD, and trying to cope with intrusive thoughts as she navigates life as a jobbing would-be writer, and not to at least CC me in the pitch email? Extremely rude. I will not forgive this oversight. Unless I’m brought on for a writer for a season two, what’s up guys!
So, yeah, Channel 4 made a show about my life, Luckily for them, it’s the most I’ve ever enjoyed it.
Pure follows Marnie (Charly Clive, in one of those just dumb engaging lead performances that already has been addicted to her specific, pointy brand of British humour), a young Scottish woman who runs away from her life in the hopes that she’ll finally be able to leave behind the endless intrusive thoughts that have been consuming her life since her adolescence.
And look, I’ve seen a lot of TV and movies try to capture what it actually feels like to live with OCD. And most of them boil it down to, basically, moving things around on mantelpieces while talking very quickly. Pure, though, is basically an aggressive six-episode assault on the senses – intrusive thoughts are jagged, ugly, exhausting, constant cutaways from real life to depict the horrible, endless, and genuinely tiring dominance that OCD can have in the lives of the people who deal with that shit. Based on a book by Rose Cartwright, an OCD sufferer who also consulted on the show, it’s about the most discomfortingly accurate look at how these thoughts invade and dominate your brain. The stylistic choices – the cutaways of visuals, of sound, that ratcheting feeling of un-control and discomfort – it’s about as realistic as it can get without beaming the contents of my brain into yours.
But, truly, why would I want to watch a show that just reflects back to me all the worst of the mental illness that I deal with day-to-day anyway? Because Pure is also fucking funny. Following a twenty-something and her friends and lovers in the big city is hardly the most revolutionary take on the comic formula, but fuck it, when it comes with a heavy dose of British humour, Irish lesbians, and what life looks like in recovery, colour me the fuck on board. Joe Cole co-headlines as a young man recovering from a porn addiction and trying to hang on to his sobriety a year after a breakdown; it’s kind of strange to see him not just stabbing his way through his problems, but there’s something pleasingly refreshing about seeing recovery depicted not just through the rock-bottom crash of addiction, but in the mess of what comes next. Sex, dating, and sexuality are treated with a gratifyingly realistic but not pointlessly horrible sense of truth, and the depth of the passion it gives female friendship is just one of the most heartbreakingly lovely and honest things I’ve seen in months.
Pure is a great show, is what I’m saying. Even if you’re not living with OCD, the depiction is enlightening, the takes on mental illness through a tragicomic lens more accurate to what life is actually like with them than a lot of deadly-serious shows I’ve watched before. I’m in love with it, and, while I’m still deeply offended, I’ll let it slide if they follow up with a season two that works as well as this one.
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(header image via IMDB)