Am I Being Unreasonable? review – Daisy May Cooper is absurdly brilliant | Daisy May Cooper

At first, it seems that Daisy May Cooper hasn’t strayed far from the role that made her famous – the fabulously peevish Kerry Mucklowe in This Country, the bittersweet comedy she co-wrote and starred in with her brother Charlie.

Her new venture is comedy-thriller Am I Being Unreasonable? (BBC One), co-written with her real-life best friend Selin Hizli (who also stars), in which she plays secretly grieving mother Nic whom we first meet lying on the sofa with her son Ollie (Lenny Rush), eating cereal and watching crap telly until he insists on being taken to school on time.

But, though the Mucklowe shade is never quite banished, Nic has more to her. She is struggling – again secretly – with her marriage, and trying to recover from the sudden death of her lover. We see in flashback that he was killed when they were saying goodbye at a train station and his coat became trapped in the doors. As the six episodes move on, the boundary between her memories, reality and other people’s versions of both become increasingly porous. Things take on a slightly hallucinatory edge that both adds interest and frustrates.

Daisy May Cooper and Seline Hizli in Am I Being Unreasonable?
Apparently kindred spirits … Daisy May Cooper and Selin Hizli in Am I Being Unreasonable? Photograph: Alistair Heap/Boffola Pictures

Nic lacks friendship as well as love. The other mothers at Ollie’s school have not taken to her, nor she to them. Though as anyone who has found their mental age being busted back down to single figures at the school gates will recognise, it’s complicated. “I don’t like Lucy,” says Nic to her husband of the most officious of the mums. “But I want her to like me.” The show’s title is taken from the (in)famous section of the Mumsnet website where people go to ask the question in relation to some huge or minuscule problem and be bombarded with answers that boil down to “Yes, you are!” and “No, you’re not!” in roughly equal measure no matter what the subject. Once you have trained there for a few months you are ready to graduate to the absolute insanity that is Reddit’s Am I the Asshole? and – well, godspeed.

Thus when an apparently kindred spirit – Jen, played by Hizli – shows up, complete with emergency gins in tins in her handbag, they quickly bond. Jen tells Nic of disastrous Tinder dates (“He said ‘Goodnight – sweet dreams, baby girl.’ I felt the disgust travel up through my vagina”) and Nic shares her secret affair and bereavement with Jen. She doesn’t notice Jen recording the whole thing on her phone.

Am I Being Unreasonable? has many points in its favour. Cooper remains an absurdly brilliant comic performer who is capable of heartbreaking moments of vulnerability, as she showed in This Country. Hizli is an equally fine actor and carries the dramatic scenes particularly well, where Cooper seems less comfortable. And what a gift they have in 13-year-old Rush, who has the comic chops and emotional range of an actor twice his age and the kind of chemistry with Cooper that is an absolute joy to watch.

But it does suffer from difficult second album syndrome. It is trying to be funny enough to satisfy the This Country fanbase, while moving sufficiently into thriller land to allow Cooper to distinguish herself in another field; to explore the loneliness of motherhood, a loveless marriage, adulthood and grief; and to provide a thriller narrative. None of it quite coheres. You can applaud the ambition while wishing they had reined themselves in just a little more and made sure the whole was properly fit for purpose – and the showcase Cooper and Hizli certainly deserve.