Binge List: I May Destroy You, Film Companion
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My recommendation today is I May Destroy You on Disney+ Hotstar Premium. This is a 12-episode series written and co-directed by Michaela Coel. Coel, a black woman born in London to Ghanaian parents, is a dazzling, multi-hyphenate talent – writer, director, showrunner and actor. In I May Destroy You, she fictionalizes the story of her sexual assault. She also plays the lead, Arabella.

Arabella is the author of a bestselling book, Chronicles of a Fed-Up Millennial, which was based on her popular Twitter account. Now, she is struggling to finish the first draft of her second book. She’s missed her deadline and is given a final night to finish by her publisher. Half way through, she decides to take a break and go out with a friend. The next morning, she finds herself back in front of the laptop, with a cut on her forehead and a vague memory of a man looming over her in a toilet. She realizes her drink had been spiked.

What follows is a sprawling, expansive exploration of consent, sexuality, racism and ideas of freedom, family, friendship. I warn you: this isn’t comfort viewing. The series is deeply unsettling because it presents millennial life as raw, messy, sometimes horrifically tragic and impenetrable. And the narrative confounds every expectation. Character arcs are twisted rather than straightforward and everyone, including Arabella herself, has moments of darkness. Arabella lives a precarious life – at one point, a drug dealer advises her not to take drugs as he sells them to her. In another episode, we see how her social media fame consumes her. Her best friends, Terry and Kwame, also have grave lapses of judgement and then struggle with the guilt of their actions.

However, Coel and co-director Sam Miller don’t give us the solace of judging these characters. Instead the directors make us intimate with them, to a point which might make a few people queasy. In several scenes, Arabella is sitting on the toilet. In an episode, Arabella’s period is discussed with a frankness that I’ve never seen before. There’s nudity, swearing and violence. But all of it serves a purpose. And Coel is such a charismatic and compelling presence that you might recoil in horror at Arabella’s poor choices but you can’t get her out of your head. Her pink wig, combat boots, striking face and strident voice force you to reconsider your own notions. The sexual landscape presented in I May Destroy You is grim and banal with its soul-sucking, app-fueled encounters. This might be far from your lived reality. But the questions that Coel poses here are ones that we all need to ask, again and again. This show is a must-watch. Don’t miss it.

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