Anatomy of the series: heroin addiction, childhood trauma and Benedict Cumberbatch in the TV series “Patrick Melrose”

Anatomy of the series: heroin addiction, childhood trauma and Benedict Cumberbatch in the TV series "Patrick Melrose"
Anatomy of the series: heroin addiction, childhood trauma and Benedict Cumberbatch in the TV series “Patrick Melrose”
The project from the main provocateurs of American television, which are responsible for “Lovers”, “Forbidden California” and “Scary Tales”, promises to show viewers sex, drugs and rock and roll. And Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role once again expands the boundaries of his acting skills.

About what

Drug dependence and sexual perversions of the strange aristocrat Patrick Melrose terrify others. He can hardly talk and utters phrases as if in slow motion playback. Benedict Cumberbatch successfully conveys the image of a man who has reached his bottom in his way of life.

In his alcoholic and narcotic drinking-bouts, he tries to hide from the past, perennial fears and what made his childhood a real hell. But when Patrick is informed of the death of his own father, he has to come to New York, take care of the funeral and figure out how he came to such a life.


Throughout five series, Patrick Melrose goes through different stages of fighting his dependencies, and the time span of the series affects 42 years of his life. The action moves from the childhood of the protagonist in 1962 to the death of his father in 1982, when he again has to recall what he ran all this time. He puts on black sunglasses and goes on a journey, which sooner or later should lead him to purification, but the road to it will be very, very long.

At the same time he is accompanied by his own inner voice, with which he constantly conducts a sarcastic dialogue. Such a split personality, coupled with his desire to do harm to himself, could be a very curious case for any therapist. After all, all his dark qualities and dependencies appeared mainly because of the unhealthy atmosphere in the family: alcoholism of his mother and physical aggression towards the boy by his father.


First of all, this series is a real holiday for all who appreciate the talent of Benedict Cumberbatch. Here his game goes through all stages – from nervous smiles and naturalistic sufferings of the addict to panic attacks and bouts of anger. In a sense, he always plays the same lost and existential hero of our time, that in the image of Sherlock Holmes, that in the image of Hamlet. However, the aristocratic British accent allows Cumberbatch to add to each of his roles a bit of charm and melodic language, which was spoken by William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde.

The role of the tyrannical father in the film was performed by the favorite actor of the creators of the cult “Matrix” of the directors of Wachowski Hugo Weaving. In his impeccable acting manner, one gesture or movement is enough to make the viewer feel anxiety and horror at what this hero is capable of. In flashbacks from the childhood of Patrick Melrose, the viewer learns about how David actually mocked everyone who was weaker than himself, including the servants in the house.

The main character’s mother is played by American actress Jennifer Jason Lee, who three years ago starred in Quentin Tarantino in The Ghoulish Eight. Working on this film, she once again convinced the film academy of her incredible talent and won her first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In the series she plays Eleanor Melrose – an unhappy woman who can not muster the courage to leave her husband. She knows about her son’s problems, but at the same time does not help him and avoids the truth in numerous glasses with alcohol.


The plot is based on five books from the series about the character, which Edward Saint-Aubin partially copied from his own biography. The first part of this story was published in 1992, and the last one – exactly in 20 years. Accordingly, in the plot of each series is placed the plot of one book. By the way, one of the novels received a nomination for one of the most prestigious world awards – Booker.
The story of Melrose’s desperate wanderings so sung into the soul of Benedict Cumberbatch that he set himself the goal of making this role on the screen at all costs. He even took part in the project as the executive producer of all five series, so great was his interest. Even Sherlock Holmes from the BBC did not cause him such enthusiastic enthusiasm.

“Melrose” was directed by the German Edward Berger, he was not widely known to the American audience of the Showtime channel, but now he received the nomination for the prime time-prize “Emmy” in the nomination “Best director of the mini-series, television film or drama.” Perhaps, this can mean that in the future he will have a career not only in European, but also in Hollywood cinema. And while he is busy shooting a new film in his native Germany.


Heroin addicts were present in the cinema for a long time. First of all, in this context, I remember “On the needle” Danny Boyle, who tells in a comedy tone a terrible story about the fight against addiction and the consequences of drug use. So, the protagonist Mark Renton, performed by Evan McGregor, locks himself in the apartment to overcome his attacks, but instead gets a whole bunch of psychedelic hallucinations and other problems. However, after 20 years in the sequel, not all the heroes of this story were able to learn from their mistakes and again became addicted to the needle.

However, one can not help recalling that the image of Sherlock Holmes, who glorified Cumberbatch, was also partly connected with drugs. True, in the case of Arthur Conan Doyle’s character, the famous detective used opium and morphine, which, he said, cleared the mind. Hence the whole of his introversion combined with cold indifference towards the people around him. Patrick Melrose, though not as ingenious as his predecessor, but certainly possesses all the qualities inherent in a true aristocrat. Therefore, all that he could not, for obvious reasons, show on the BBC, he successfully demonstrates on the channel Showtime.

Vogue UA

About the “benefit” – the truth. Cumberbatch in the series a lot, a lot: he then rushes to New York in a fluttering coat to have time to pick up his father’s ashes, then scouring the marginal city outskirts in search of heroin, then crushing a luxurious room in the hotel, being drugged, then flirting with girls, then effectively takes a bath, jokes, suffers, ponders – lives to the full, and all this for the luxurious music, Wild World by Cat Stevens and Summertime by Janice Joplin. Cumberbatch in “Patrick Meluroze” does not spare himself, and when the face of his hero acts as a sweat, it is clear that this is not only an artistic device.


Heroin as a means to escape was much more reliable. Although, if the story was only about the rehabilitation of a beautiful Englishman with a heavy childhood, a preventive video would appear for demonstration at meetings of anonymous alcoholics and courses of acting. It was a story – not a fairy tale. The fairy tale will be ahead, without gags and pantomimes, jumps and hugs – about a man who has not turned into a green gecko, but has learned to endure this life, looking at her with a sober glance, with a learned pose, throwing away the byronic ideal of the sufferer, capable only of a crooked grin in her address.

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