I’m sorry, Kate Winslet, but you can’t just do this to me. I sat down to watch the Oscar winner and Queen of Reading I am Ruth, and two hours later…I’m a broken woman. In the Channel 4 feature-length drama, Winslet plays a mother wracked with worries as her daughter’s mental health deteriorates. What destroyed me wasn’t the way Ruth swears out loud when she’s alone in the car, or the way she scurries out into the garden, completely upset, to secretly smoke a cigarette. No, it was the way her voice is always a little too high, hanging by a thread, happiness hiding despair – she exists, instinctively, to upset everyone else.
Just as it is with Dominic Savages run by women I am Anthology series, the story was co-created with Winslet himself, and the plot is entirely improvised. This sense of fly-on-the-wall naturalism is further enhanced by the fact that Winslet is acting opposite her own real-life daughter, Mia Threapleton. Together the two have a special alchemy: there is so much in their hostile silence, so much longing in their silent cuddle.
Savage’s films are often referred to as acting “master classes.” They are polished character studies centered around conversation-provoking topics: Vicky McClure’s I’m Nicola it was about a forced relationship, that of Suranne Jones i am victoria about a woman struggling with fear. There’s little plot here other than the fact that Freya spends a lot of time in her bedroom with the curtains drawn trying to take the perfect selfie while notifications ring through the night. Her mother comes in, opens the windows and complains that it’s stuffy. The feeling that something bad is happening hangs around like a miasma.
Still, I felt like I was in a thriller at the end. Things simmer, then boil over in white rage. The couple rages at each other, not knowing how to stop, and there’s a terrible, urgent sense that Freya is going under. She cannot articulate why she is so sad; Ruth, who is a single parent, provides a lot of support but has no one to support her. (At one point she calls her freshman son and bursts into tears.)
As Freya, Threapleton is a real revelation. In one moment she’s like a wobbly calf retreating under its covers. Next, she’s a silent assassin, brooding in the corner before brutally dismantling her mother’s chosen outfit. Winslet’s sizzling performance is similarly unspectacular. At home she perks up and listens to the sounds of life, while at work she quietly collapses in front of a spreadsheet. She steps on egg shells before letting go of her guard in exhaustion. “Some things I want to do sometimes I can do!” she snaps irritably when Freya catches her smoking.
Apart from his two superlative achievements, I am Ruth should start a more considered conversation about teens and social media. There’s always been the patronizing notion that kids + screens = bad. But we need to be more nuanced about it. For Ruth, there’s a tricky question about boundaries. Freya’s smartphone is her private domain, but things happen on it that she really needs to be protected from. For many parents with teenage children, this is an unmissable sight. For some, however, it may just be too excruciating.
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/i-am-ruth-review-kate-winslet-b2240484.html I Am Ruth Review: Kate Winslet and Mia Threapleton star in a drama a must-have for parents of teens