‘Pure’ review: an essential comedy that peels away the stigma of mental health

In the first episode of Pure we see 24-year-old Marnie (newcomer Charly Clive) making a speech at her parents’ wedding anniversary bash. It starts off as you might expect, and excruciatingly awkward performance with a few uncomfortable jokes that go down like a lead balloon; but then it takes a turn. As Marnie stands on stage looking out at a group of her family and friends, the scene in front of her suddenly changes into a writhing orgy. Elderly relatives engage in graphic sexual acts with her pals, as Marnie looks on, horrified.

This is because Marnie suffers from a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder called Pure O, where you have unsavoury invasive thoughts at any time. These could be violent, obsessive or, like in the case of Marnie, graphically sexual. In her own words: “it’s like the Sixth Sense but I don’t see dead people, I see naked ones”.

Overwhelmed by the experience, she flees from the party and hops on a bus to London, leaving her home in rural Scotland behind to start over. Here she moves in with brutally cheerful school pal Shereen (Kiran Sonia Sawar), and embarks on a quest to work out what’s wrong with her. Befriending sex addict Charlie (Joe Cole), who’s trying to rebuild his life after his addiction caused it to break down, and starting an unpaid internship at a magazine (which she got after an attempted one night stand with journalist Amber (Niamh Algar)), the series follows Marnie and her new gang of friends as she navigates her life as a twenty-something in the Big City and her life with the intrusive Pure O.

Based on Rose Cartwright’s memoir of the same name, Channel 4’s latest telly show is excellent. More importantly, it casts a light and removes the stigma of Pure O, a type of mental health issue many of us won’t have heard of. Clive’s sensitive portrayal of Marnie is brilliant, juxtaposing moments of comedy, total heartbreak and emotional turmoil. What’s wonderful about Pure is that although the show is wickedly funny, mental health is never the punch line, with the serious and difficult moments handled expertly. It’s an honest and accurate portrayal of a young woman battling with OCD, which as we become more open to talk about mental health as a society, feels especially vital.

An essential dark comedy about mental health, Pure is a breakout smash.

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