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Love Me S2 review: a rare local drama that puts character over corpses

Nine months have passed since we last spent time with the Mathiesons – it's good to be back in their company.

It’s been nine months since we last spent time with Melbourne’s Mathieson family – and they are very much a Melbourne family: Love Me might be adapted from Swedish drama Älsak Mig, but it’s Melbourne’s streets and skyline that set the scene.

It’s not quite as actively cool as some of the more recent series located in the Victorian capital – you’re more likely to see characters walking towards the Arts Centre than down some cobbled laneway looking for a bar with no name on the door. But its cosy sense of place gives the series a lived-in feel, a firm foundation for the characters’ low-key struggles.

Nine months is just long enough for youngest Mathieson Aaron (William Lodder) to be thinking – mistakenly, as it turns out – that there’s still time for a quick semi-date with old friend Jesse (Mitzi Ruhlmann) before his ex, Ella (Shalom Brune-Franklin) gives birth to their child. Jesse’s wary, but he’s coming on strong, trying for a second date even as he’s rushing to the hospital.

In the first season Aaron often seemed self-centred and petulant, but impending fatherhood – and perhaps nine months on his own – seems to have softened his edges while leaving him a little lost in that way single young men can sometimes be. He’s still messing up (a big job opportunity gets lost in the whole dating / rush to the hospital drama), and his moves on Jesse may not be the right ones. Idealistic yet realistic about romance, Love Me isn’t the kind of series where friends effortlessly become lovers and all’s right with the world.

Sexy times

Look no further than older Mathieson sibling Clara (Bojana Novakovic). Now happily in the arms of Peter (Bob Morley) – a case of good neighbours becoming more than good friends – their focus has shifted to having children. Which means a lot of trying to conceive every chance they can, and talking about it to bestie Sasha (Celia Pacquola) in between.

But the on-the-clock sexy times have a hint of desperation: as a medical professional, Clara is all too happy to throw around the phrase ‘geriatric pregnancy’. Novakovic skilfully balances her character’s embrace of new love with an essentially guarded nature, a sense that there’s always limits to be respected. Even when she’s a few days late, nobody’s cancelling the appointment at the fertility clinic (where their doctor is a perfectly cast Frank Woodley) just yet.

As for father Glen (Hugo Weaving), he’s having his own backyard sexy times with new wife Anita (Heather Mitchell), at least until the neighbours start rustling their curtains. But the real drama comes when he discovers Anita (who he married in something of a passionate whirl last season) doesn’t have any insurance of any kind. Worse, she doesn’t even believe in it.

Read: Love Me star Heather Mitchell on playing women with agency

Glen, whose essential sweetness is always endearing even when he seems the dictionary definition of ‘old duffer’, is appalled; luckily he has his tool belt handy for some much needed home repairs, even if his sceptical kids don’t think they’ve ever seen him wear it.

Lurking with intent

The first episode effortlessly re-establishes the series’ intimate feel. Much of the action takes place in a hospital corridor as everyone lurks while Aaron waits to become a father. The family dynamics are deftly sketched, Clara and Peter texting each other in front of Glen to discuss their fertility issues while Glen reassures Aaron that skipping a job interview to be there for the birth of his first child is the right move.

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There are a few hints of greater dramas to come. Ella’s mother has flown in from the UK and it’s clear she doesn’t think much of the father of her grandchild, while a mystery figure is leaving notes on Anita’s door (possibly Kim Gyngell, last sighted lurking at last season’s wedding). And Peter’s aggressively teenage son is still on the scene, being appalled at catching his father having sex in the kitchen.

The first season was about finding love; this is more about finding ways to keep it going when other factors intrude. Having a child is seen by many as the ultimate expression of love; what happens when the child arrives but the love is gone, or a relationship is building towards something that may never happen?

A rare local drama more interested in character than corpses, Love Me remains a thoughtful, often delightful look at the paths love takes, the way life goes when we embrace the chance to be bound to another.

Season two of Love Me premieres on Binge and Foxtel on 6 April.

Anthony Morris is a freelance film and television writer. He’s been a regular contributor to The Big Issue, Empire Magazine, Junkee, Broadsheet, The Wheeler Centre and Forte Magazine, where he’s currently the film editor. Other publications he’s contributed to include Vice, The Vine, Kill Your Darlings (where he was their online film columnist), The Lifted Brow, Urban Walkabout and Spook Magazine. He’s the co-author of hit romantic comedy novel The Hot Guy, and he’s also written some short stories he’d rather you didn’t mention. You can follow him on Twitter @morrbeat and read some of his reviews on the blog It’s Better in the Dark.