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Bojana Novakovic as Clara and Bob Morley as Peter.CBC GEM

On the day of the summer solstice let us consider the complexity of the human heart. It’s a good time to do it, on the longest day of the year, and perhaps the light reveals what is otherwise hidden.

The heart’s mysteries are hardly ignored in an entertainment culture teeming as it is with love stories. But the current news cycle is drenched in pessimism and outrage, with sensitivity subordinated to anger and spite. Who needs relatable love stories? We all do.

Love Me (streams on CBC Gem) is a new and welcome arrival in these times of emotional exhibitionism that leave love behind. From Australia, the mini-series is sweet, nuanced, mature and about adults at different ages of life and understanding.

It would be easy to mistake the plot synopsis for a conventional sequence of vignettes about love, attraction and affection, and the drama shifting easily between the situations of the characters. However, the rewarding twist here is that it’s all about one family, at a particularly poignant and meaningful point in their lives.

We first meet Clara (Bojana Novakovic) a 38-year-old anesthetist who works at a maternity hospital. She lives alone and, after spending time focused on her career, has begun looking for dates via the messy, unreliable platform of dating apps. She’s appalled by the men she meets, wary about the very idea of romance and unsure about having kids. Next, we meet Aaron (William Lodder), a law student and in lust with Ella (Shalom Brune-Franklin), a DJ who doesn’t seem to care much about him. But, in lust, he will screw up a job interview to be with her. Then we meet the middle-aged Glen (Hugo Weaving) who is buying a romantic getaway for his wife, Christine (Sarah Peirse), for their 40th wedding anniversary.

Catch up on the best streaming TV of 2021 with our holiday guide

What we realize after a while is that Glen is father to Clara and Aaron. A family dinner scene in the first episode is beautifully done, rife with all sorts of tension, tenderness and simmering anger. The mother, Christine, is very ill after suffering terrible injuries in an accident. Mostly bed-ridden and kept alive by pain-killers, she might not live much longer. She knows it and intends to speak her mind.

As Glen, Hugo Weaving’s performance is one of great depth, poignancy and quiet power. At first, a man devoted to the mantra of keep-calm-and-carry-on, he is soon bereft and yet more open, a person more on the cusp of deeper understandings than his two children. Weaving marvelously conveys the excruciating politeness he must present when old friends muster the thought that they will pray for his wife, and the blend of exasperation and hope in his heart when he looks at the situations of his son and daughter.

Clara’s spiky presence gets its own focus. She’s a plausible figure, not something from a conventional rom-com plot. When she has a meet-cute encounter with an apparently charming guy, she’s as skeptical as a real person might be. As for Aaron, that’s a tricky role. He’s too young to see his own selfishness and not old enough yet to grasp the true texture of either familial and romantic love.

The first original series made for the streaming service Binge, the series is, at six episodes, taut and never wanders far from sharp observations of its main characters. There are nicely staged set pieces – the funeral service for Christine and its aftermath are admirably sharp and without a false note. The series pivots on Glen being forced to take that holiday abroad he had bought to cheer up his wife. What happens when he’s freed from the bounds of home (it’s set in Melbourne, which is made to look both enchanting and real) is treated not as the stand-up-and-cheer situation it could be; instead, it’s gently pragmatic about aging and freedom.

Written mainly by Alison Bell, who adapted it from Swedish drama Alska Mig, Love Me benefits from having the same director, Emma Freeman, for all six hour-long episodes. The tone remains serenely authentic, a little bemused but honest about love and attraction. It would be welcome at any time, but in the doldrums of these days, albeit in summer weather, it is refreshingly frank, funny, humane and illuminating about the heart’s sadness, passions, and about family.

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