It's A Sin review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, January 27th, 2023  

It’s A Sin

HBO Max, February 17th, 2021 @ 11:00 PM

Feb 17, 2021 Web Exclusive
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The latest limited series from HBO Max, the British drama It’s A Sin explores friendship, queer identity, and the pain and destruction caused by the AIDS epidemic. Set in London in the early 1980s to the early 1990s, the series focuses on five friends in their post-high school years. In particular, the series centers around Ritchie (Olly Alexander), Roscoe (Omari Douglas), and Colin (Callum Scott Howells). As the group’s friendship gets stronger, and as they go through more experiences, everything comes crashing down when the AIDS epidemic takes hold of Britain, threatening their lives and the lives of the people around them.

It’s A Sin begins deceptively simple with Ritchie, Roscoe and Colin moving to London. Ritchie comes to attend college, Roscoe to run away from his homophobic family, and Colin to get a job at a tailoring shop. At college, Ritchie meets Jill (Lydia West), who quickly becomes his best friend. Along with Roscoe and another friend, Ash (Nathaniel Curtis), the four move in together to a flat they refer to as the “Pink Palace.” They meet Colin at a gay bar and that same night, he takes the last remaining bed in the flat.

As the five pursue their dream jobs, going out every night, and finding who they are in a place where it’s okay to be who you are, the AIDS epidemic in Britain grows, with cultural and governmental prejudice at an all-time high. The series shifts from an energetic comedy to a more somber drama over the course of its five 45-minute episodes, but there is an interplay between both genres throughout the series.

Even genre-bending as much as it does would normally be a challenge, but It’s A Sin pulls it off through its smart script and its brilliant performances. While Alexander, Douglas, and Howells give tremendous individual performances, the real magic of the series lies in the chemistry between the ensemble. The five principals are able to instantly grasp viewers’ attention. The most impressive part, though, is that right from the first episode, the friendship is completely natural. A common issue with limited series is that they move too quickly, making characters seem one-dimensional and obsolete in the process. This is never an issue with It’s A Sin.

The AIDS epidemic in the 1980s is a broad subject to explore in such a short amount of time. It’s A Sin does the right thing by focusing on a small group of people. By building their bond so extensively and energetically in the first two episodes, each subsequent emotional moment in the series is magnified. It’s A Sin is also a nuanced and poignant look at the derailment of queer identity during this time.

Although it is tough to watch, It’s A Sin’s dynamic dialogue and stellar performances are among the factors that make it an extremely well-done limited series, and a definite standout of HBO Max’s small-but-expanding original television slate.

Author rating: 7.5/10

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