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While You're Laughing You'll Be Pulling for the Sisters of 'This Way Up'
August 21, 2019  | By David Hinckley

There’s been another Sharon Horgan (top) sighting, which means we need to brace ourselves for a comedy wherein some parts get incredibly sad. 

This Way Up, a six-episode British import that becomes available Wednesday on Hulu, isn’t a Horgan creation. Aisling Bea (top) thought it up. But she wisely brought in Horgan as her costar, and the whole thing fits comfortably into the same sometimes uncomfortable niche as Horgan’s Catastrophe.

Bea plays Aine, who’s in her twenties and is just being released from the treatment facility where she spent some time recovering from a nervous breakdown that apparently left her almost catatonic. 

Aine, who’s funny and self-aware, resumes functioning in the world. She teaches an English class for immigrants, and their eagerness to learn – as opposed to, say, the bored kids in a regular school class – seems to buoy Aine as well. 

We quickly see, however, that Aine remains heartbreakingly fragile. Relationships plague and elude her. We see how it becomes a little defeat when she can’t find anyone with whom to share dinner. 

We see that only in brief glances, however, since This Way Up never forgets that it’s here mostly to make us laugh. 

When Aine calls the treatment center in a low moment on a Friday evening, she’s told no one will be available until Monday. She can make an appointment if she’d like. 

She presses. What if I said I was going to commit suicide, she asks the woman at the center. Could I talk to someone then? 

After a long pause, the woman says, “No.” 

That response being absurd, it’s also funny, and we see that Aine realizes it’s funny even as it leaves her alone. 

Happily, in the larger picture of This Way Up, Aine isn’t alone. She has her older sister Shona (Horgan), to whom she’s almost joined at the hip. 

Shona has become Aine’s protector, and she executes that role fiercely, interrupting her own life to monitor Aine’s constantly.

This involves some sacrifice and creates some awkward situations since Shona has her own life. At the moment she’s launching a project with Charlotte (Indira Varma) to help women get more of a foothold in the world of finance. 

Shona also has a boyfriend, Vish (Aasif Mandvi), who has sort of half moved in with her. This pushes Shona toward a decision she’s been putting off about what she really wants in the relationship. 

Having Aine and Aine’s issues around all the time complicates that decision, though Shona never shows a hint of resentment.

As this suggests, sibling bonds dominate and, to a significant extent, define This Way Up. While the sisters disagree and argue, their mutual affection ensures that however dark Aine’s world can become, the show will have an underlying warmth that lays the foundation for its comic side. 

This Way Up harbors a few seeming mysteries, such as the presumably complicated story behind Aine’s breakdown, or the reason Aine’s therapists told her to avoid intimate contact for a year after her release. 

But that’s about as cosmic as it seems to get. No apparent crimes or murders, just relationships, and with only six half-hour episodes, our glances at the other people in the sisters’ lives often feel brief. 

Happily, Bea and Horgan are enough. Five minutes into the first episode, which begins with Aine’s surreal departure from the treatment facility, we really want things to work out for both of them. 

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