Created and written by Russell T Davies, Years And Years follows a busy British family from Manchester as their lives converging on one crucial night in 2019. As businesswoman Vivienne Rook (Emma Thompson) causes controversy amongst the nation, Daniel (Russell Tovey) is getting married to Ralph (Dino Fetscher), Stephen (Rory Kinnear) and Celeste (T’Nia Miller) worry about their kids (Lydia West and Jade Alleyne), Rosie (Ruth Madeley) is chasing a new partner, and political activist Edith (Jessica Hynes) has’nt been home for years. Presiding over them all is Gran, the imperious Muriel (Anne Reid).
Beginning in 2019, Years and Years accelerates into the future, compressing 15 years into six hours. A triumphant journey that comes to end far too quickly, the story comprises the aftermath of Brexit, a second term of Trump, and the rise of China, as children wear real face filters, robots perform sexual favours, and humans can upload their minds to the cloud.
Set in a dystopian near-future, it is an incredibly relevant series. We’re worried about the leaders who are currently in charge of the world, we’re worried about the UK’s place within it, and we’re worried about a future that seems all too inevitable – politically, environmentally, and self-destructively. What Years and Years does is to speculate on how bad things could get when we elect people who put their egos first. It presents us with plausible insights into a state that we are heading towards, with more advanced and intrusive technologies, outspoken and reckless leaders with ulterior motives, and stricter laws on immigration.
What hits hardest is that some of this is already going on, but Years and Years is putting us on the other side of the border (literally), showing us how tragic situations like immigration are when you come to like the people are going through it. Watching the scene with the boats cross the English Channel, I turned to my husband and said, “But this is what’s happening, so we know that there aren’t many happy endings.” I’m hopeful that a series like this can change people’s perspectives on the ignorant and ill-educated decisions we are being allowed to make for our country, but I’m far too pessimistic to think that we have any chance of that.
Although it’s quite unnerving and depressing to think about this as a possible future, Years And Years is also full of humour and warmth. Whilst it does an excellent job of pushing big ideas, which is exactly what you would expect from Russell T Davies who is known for exploring modern day issues with quite controversial themes, the series still feels very natural.
And that’s because its core focus is around family, and is full of characters who are easy to invest in. The central family are all worthy of cheering on – most of the time – for one reason or another. They are likeable, relatable, and desperate for a better life and to find a send of stability and optimism.
Davies creates his characters magnificently. There’s so much diversity in the three generations of the Lyons family, but there’s not a single stereotype in sight. Even grandmother Muriel is on board with new technology, although she does still miss Woolworths.
The whole cast is exceptional, with the story centred around Emma Thompson‘s brilliant Vivienne Rook, but it is Russell Tovey and Maxim Baldry who stand out, for me. I’ve always been a fan of Tovey so it’s been great to see him in something more mainstream once again and given a lead rather than a supporting character. But it is Baldry who I found most impressive. I’ve only known him for his previous work on Hollyoaks, so what a big step up this is for him. They both give such incredible performances, and a certain scene between them completely broke my heart.
Years and Years will undoubtedly remain one of the best series of the year. You can catch up with it on the iPlayer.