Our House review: A drama more superficial than a Foxtons storefront

No amount of dangerous driving or infidelity can save ITV’s latest drama from its fundamental vapidity

Nick Hilton
Tuesday 08 March 2022 07:33
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<p>Tuppence Middleton and Martin Compston in a divorce drama with a real estate twist</p>

Tuppence Middleton and Martin Compston in a divorce drama with a real estate twist

If Euphoria, 2022’s most buzzy TV show, has sparked fresh discussions about sex and drugs and the pornographic sensibility, then ITV’s latest drama, Our House, offers titillating thrills for a bougie generation more addicted to Zoopla than Pornhub. It’s curtain twitchers, with their fantasy floorplans and prospective paint swatches, who will get the most out of a drama more superficial than a Foxtons storefront.

The premise is simple, and I’ve rarely seen a TV show cut to the chase as efficiently. Our House’s opening seconds depict Tuppence Middleton’s Fi Lawson approaching a gorgeous double-fronted London home. She enters, curiously enough, alongside some movers, and is greeted in the hallway by a woman who asks her what she’s doing. Fi’s home, it transpires, is also this woman’s home. “We’re not renting,” the new owner announces, as though what she is about to say makes any material difference, “we’ve bought it.” Fi’s now trapped in a Kafkaesque limbo, as police and lawyers fail to make sense of how two families can own the same home.

It’s a simple premise, and one that stokes our greedy-eyed home envy while also providing that nightmare of a world turned upside down. Fi’s estranged husband Bram (Line of Duty’s horny chipmunk, Martin Compston, somehow much more convincing with his native Scots’ brogue) is suspiciously awol, and Fi is trapped in emotional escrow. As she tries to make sense of her situation, the action unfolds in a disorienting non-linear fashion, tracing the early days of the couple’s marriage through to him shagging the neighbour (I May Destroy You’s Weruche Opia) in the children’s Wendy house. Middleton, a successful TV actor who has, perhaps, been hamstrung by a name so twee, you expect her to skip away plaiting daisy chains, is perfectly likeable, as is Compston, though there’s not a hint of chemistry between them.

There’s something especially British about the obsession with portraying middle-class life as somehow inherently seedy. Commuting, driving an estate car, speeding tickets, having a coffee in the park with the other mums, getting divorced, even buying a house – in the hands of a TV writer these quotidian activities feel almost deviant. Perhaps it’s all the fault of The Girl on the Train, which turned a gin in a tin into an object of almost hallucinatory potency. It’s in this landscape that Our House exists, except it’s all so dull. It’s a divorce drama with a real estate twist, masquerading as a psychological thriller.

That drabness infects the drama, even as things heat up. No amount of dangerous driving or infidelity can save Our House from its fundamental vapidity. Contrasts are more effectively drawn between the houses than the characters, particularly after the Lawsons decide to try “bird-nesting”, a process where a divorcing couple share both the family home and a miserable studio flat. “I like your flat – it hasn’t got a lot of character,” Bram is told by his shadowy one-night stand (Buket Komer). “Bland, that’s the word,” she adds. She might as well be reviewing the show.

When your eye is drawn to the quality of the interior design and architectural sophistication, and you find yourself subconsciously valuing the property (£2.5m, I reckon, in today’s red hot market), it’s a sign that the drama isn’t really working. Our House is a slow-burn mystery that just never engages with its audience. In the real estate terms, of which the show is so fond, this insipid thriller is like shopping for a mansion in Knightsbridge, but settling for a converted garage on an industrial estate. There’s a scant chance you won’t be going home disappointed.

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