In Review

Everything I Know About Love: did the TV show live up to Dolly Alderton’s hit memoir?

This ‘love letter to female friendship’ may make older viewers feel like ‘an anthropologist on Mars’

Commentators often levy criticism that the characters are indulgent and narcissistic at stories of millennial love – yet TV audiences seem happy to feast on these generational faults.

A matter of weeks after the serialised dramatisation of Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends “managed to make being in your twenties seem more boring than roaring”, Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love “offers a livelier, messier look at life in early adulthood”, said the Financial Times.

Based on the 2018 bestselling memoir of the same name, the seven-episode series sees foursome Maddie, Birdy, Nell and Amara start their post-university lives in “an almost extravagantly spacious and well-decorated house in Camden (brought to you by the Friends school of inexplicable metropolitan living standards)”, said The Independent’s chief TV critic Nick Hilton.

These women “use any excuse – a new job, a lost job – to open a bottle of wine on a Monday and spend hours practising dance routines in mismatched pyjamas”, said Eleanor Halls in The Telegraph. This is the generation “always on the hunt for those Insta moments, always performing”, said The Times’s deputy TV editor Ben Dowell, so audiences “can easily forgive” the “hackneyed” poses, like when the four roll down Primrose Hill at sunrise after a big night. 

Maggie, “a fictionalised proxy for author” Alderton, is a “booze-fuelled dreamer, only kept from floating away by the anchor of her best friend and flatmate, the oppressively grounded Birdy”, The Independent’s Hilton continued. But Maggie makes the “mistake” of setting Birdy up with “muscled dolt” Nathan, thereby forcing her “to watch as the sole meaningful relationship in her life is stretched to breaking point”.  

Emma Appleton’s performance as the story’s protagonist is “supremely charismatic”, while Bel Powey’s portrayal of steadfast best friend Birdy “teeters on the brink of hammy” but “just about keeps it onside”. The rest of the cast “round out the ensemble admirably”. 

While a host of male characters may be the romantic interests that dominate the women’s conversations, “the love story at the heart of this story has nothing to do with them”, said The Telegraph’s Halls. “Some may roll their eyes at Maggie’s privilege and narcissism”, but this “love letter to female friendship” is as “charming” as Alderton’s memoir.  

Directed by China Moo-Young and Julia Ford, produced by Surian Fletcher-Jones, there are parts of Everything I Know About Love “that’ll make you cackle so loud you’ll feel bad for your neighbours” said Mashable’s senior culture reporter Rachel Thompson – and there are “wonderfully sex positive moments” too. But there are “also deep lows that are the real markers of this decade”.

“Some may roll their eyes at Maggie’s privilege and narcissism”, said The Telegraph’s Halls. Any viewers “much older” than the 24-year-old characters will feel like “an anthropologist on Mars”, said The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan. 

Though it’s been “billed as a Sex and the City for our times”, she continued, “the characterisation isn’t strong enough and it doesn’t have that touchstone’s wit, subtlety or wisdom”. “The drama and humour are spread thin” across these “bloated” 45-minute episodes which are “weighed down by Maggie’s oscillations between self-pity and self-importance”, said the Financial Times. 

But “for many women under the age of 35, this tender, comic and wincingly accurate portrayal of navigating love, friendship and your early twenties in London will feel like anything but fiction,” said Eleanor Halls at The Telegraph. “It’s almost impossible to finish Everything I Know About Love without having sent a barrage of WhatsApp messages to old friends and flatmates, each beginning: ‘Remember when…?’”

This show “rips along at a jaunty canter”, providing a “refreshingly candid and uninhibited portrait of a maligned generation”, said The Independent’s Hilton. And millennial viewers may find their “new best friends are right around the corner”, said Mashable’s Thompson.

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