Director: Chris Eyre
Stars: Eric Schweig, Graham Greene, Gary Farmer, Noah Watts, Lois Red Elk
Genre: Crime, Drama
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 84 minutes

Weathered but luminous, Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous) glows in Sensitive Skin, a lovely comedy-drama from the BBC. Davina Jackson (Lumley), a 61 year-old wife, mother, and art-gallery assistant, has begun hallucinating imaginary friends and the personification of her frustration. Her husband Al (Denis Lawson, Bleak House) is a bundle of neuroses, while her son Orlando (a brilliant turn by James Lance) is 30 but behaves as if he's barely 13. Over the course of 12 half-hour episodes (six per season), Davina, Al, Orlando, and their friends and family reveal--sometimes with rueful melancholy, sometimes with acidic humor--that getting older doesn't mean getting wiser. Al struggles to be more assertive and just becomes obnoxious; Davina has an affair with a younger man prone to make archeological double-entendres; and their brother-in-law Roger (Nicholas Jones) surrenders his profitable career in finance to become an artist--just as he falls under suspicion of embezzlement. None of the episodes are plot-oriented, yet they move along briskly, driven by elegant, razor-sharp writing and skillful performances from the central cast and superb guest performers like David Warner, Frances de la Tour, Jonathan Miller, Patrick Malahide, and Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), among others. After the first season there's a dramatic turn; the series loses its footing slightly for a couple of episodes after that, but then unveils the strongest work of the series. Fans of Dennis Potter (The Singing Detective, Pennies from Heaven) should definitely see Sensitive Skin. Lumley is simply wonderful, ranging from arch comedy to heartbreaking sadness with subtle and fluid confidence. Sensitive Skin is a gem. --Bret Fetzer

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