'Pure' Review: A hilarious adult narrative that tackles mental health, sex addiction and more

Having originally premiered on Channel 4 in 2019, the story of Marnie's OCD addled intrusive sexual thoughts are now coming to HBO Max


                             'Pure' Review: A hilarious adult narrative that tackles mental health, sex addiction and more
Charly Clive as Marnie on 'Pure' (Channel 4)

Spoilers for 'Pure'

Dysfunctional sex comedies always come at the high risk of falling prey to insensitivity. The established and the advised trick is to avoid cheap laughs as the confusing, befuddling and sometimes awkwardly frustrating journey of one having sex unfolds and 'Pure' is refreshingly brilliant about it all. The 2019 Channel 4 series arriving at HBO Max shortly for the American audience will definitely find a soft corner considering Fleabag's popularity. Why? Because there's not much separating the sex-addicted titular character of Phoebe Waller Bridge's self-led Emmy-winning series and Pure's Marmie who has had sexual thoughts in her head for the last 3,723 days.

Some people would consider x-ray vision a power, but not Marnie. We meet her dressed in a flowy cocktail dress, hair rolled in a bun, but disheveled. Marnie's dressed oddly even for a 24-year-old, the backpack doesn't match the dress and as she tells us, you can imagine life is not where it's supposed to be when she's standing there in the ice, all by herself, 'freezing my t*ts off' in the cold. It almost makes one feel bad for her as your next girl next door heroine and while your heart might not break the way it did for Fleabag, you will be left crushed by the distress (yes, that's the actual word) Marnie suffers from constantly visualizing sex and nudity. 

While Fleabag's was a depraved coping mechanism, Marnie here suffers from the titular Pure-O, or purely-obsessional type OCD where one is forced to have intrusive thoughts about uncomfortable things all day. Instead of thoughts about murder, Marnie sees people naked all the time and her mind immediately busies itself in the imagery of the person(s) having sex, even if it's just her own mum. So she moves to London for some 'f**king answers' realizing her condition is far too scandalous for the small Border town of Scotland to be able to handle it and newcomer Charly Clive breathes an undeniable charm into the character based on Rose Cartwright's book of the same name.

Cartwright herself suffers from Pure-O type OCD and it's no doubt she gets, understands and has fought Marnie's distress at some level or the other. Gone are the sleazy glances of sexualizing nipples and floppy penises although you feel find them aplenty in the six-part miniseries. Marnie here sees humans as fully sexual beings, but there's hardly any pleasure or satisfaction associated. It becomes evident when we learn the reason behind her moving to London so abruptly. After her mind tails off in carnal directions during a speech at her parents' anniversary party, Marnie visualizes herself and her mum engaging in some not so pleasant cunnilingus right then and there. Marnie sees people enjoy themselves and the visualization is explored with no holding back. But Clive manages to paint the look of discomfort so well on Marnie, even with a room full of naked people just going at it, all you can do is feel sorry for her.

In all of this, Marnie solace ends up being the immediate close circle she builds at London. Visits to professionals suggest her visuals might be from closeted homosexuality, so she tries to have sex with a woman she picks up at a bar. It fails but adds to Marnie's group of friends in a city that  (luckily) couldn't give less of a sh*t if she 'wanked in the bollard', or if 'there's something wrong' with her. The next stop at Marnie's friendship quest is a sex addict called Charlie, played by the unpredictable Joe Cole. Before he was the menacing Sean Wallace in this year's 'Gangs of London', Cole's Charlie brought back his boy next door charm from 'Black Mirror' with a dash of the suave his Johnny Shelby carried in 'Peaky Blinders'. And it works its charm, like every time.

Charlie and Marnie find comfort in each other's depraved thoughts and yearnings and it's a predictable plot progression with a foreseeable ending, saved by its expository humor. Marnie's trip to a professional ends with visuals of the psychiatrist licking her own armpits and if that wasn't disturbing enough, in Marnie's own words “I can lose a day thinking about milking my mum, fingering a horse or getting teabagged by my dentist." Writer Kirstie Swain (who herself has a panic disorder) and Clive have a wonderous collaboration when it comes to normalizing Marnie's life and journey while never for once committing the significance of her distress. Watching naked people might not seem like a problem one would want to fight unless that's all you can see about them and begins impacting your view of yourself as a person - this is the gist of Marnie exploring just how to fix these thoughts and it's all kinds of touching, hilarious and beautiful.

'Pure' will be available for streaming from August 27 only on HBO Max.

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