Un-Amer­i­can Psycho

India Today - - LEISURE - —Jai Ar­jun Singh

I’m James. I’m 17. And I’m pretty sure I’m a psy­chopath,” are the first words we hear in The End of the F***ing World; one way of look­ing at this darkly off­beat show is that it’s about a young man learn­ing that the world is more twisted than he could ever as­pire to be. It must be de­flat­ing at that age to re­alise you aren’t all that spe­cial or dan­ger­ous; that even if you tor­tured an­i­mals as a kid and scalded your own hand in oil, there are much worse, less self-re­flec­tive peo­ple than you around.

This tightly con­structed, easyto-binge-watch Bri­tish se­ries (eight episodes of around 20 min­utes each) cen­tres on James and

Alyssa, his rest­less and de­pres­sive new friend—if that’s the cor­rect de­scrip­tion for some­one whom he plans to kill (or so he claims). They agree to run away, leav­ing be­hind the town where they feel like mis­fits. “If this was a film, we’d prob­a­bly be Amer­i­can,” she dead­pans with the wis­dom of one fa­mil­iar with the Hol­ly­wood tra­di­tion of mal­con­tents on the road, which stretches back at least to the 1940s’ They Live by Night and in­cludes Bad­lands and True Ro­mance.

Ini­tially, James and Alyssa seem like cold fish—desul­tory, blank-faced, with a me­chan­i­cal and bored at­ti­tude to even sex—but be­fore one re­alises it, their vul­ner­a­ble sides emerge and it be­comes eas­ier to root for them. The first three episodes alone give us two very nasty mid­dle-aged men whose ac­tions makes these kids seem like, well, kids.

I had heard this was a black com­edy and was a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed on that score— there is some dry, mo­rose hu­mour, only not as much as I had hoped for. But there are other things to en­joy, no­tably the su­per lead per­for­mances, a rock sound­track that uses clas­sics like “I’m laugh­ing on the out­side, cry­ing on the in­side” to un­usual ef­fect, and (if you’re into this sort of thing) a star­tling, stylised mur­der scene with a spurt of blood flow­ing dream­ily at the cam­era. At times, the voiceover-driven nar­ra­tive comes across as pre­ten­tiously, show­ily ni­hilis­tic—but that’s how you’d ex­pect an angstrid­den teen to be.

The hu­mour dis­ap­points, but the lead ac­tors and sound­track stand out

Cour­tesy NET­FLIX

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