Lots of us have had a disastrous interview (or two) in our time, but Rae Earl’s experience at the University of Bristol is something else.
As the Lincolnshire teenager, played by the wonderful Sharon Rooney, returns in a third and final series of the award-winning My Mad Fat Diary, Rae tells the frosty professors that she hasn’t had time to read Hamlet, because “I live in the real world, and Shakespeare doesn’t change my baby sister’s nappies in the middle of the night…” It sounds like a fair enough excuse to me, but Rae reckons she’s blown it.
Based on the cult teen book, the witty and moving drama follows the life of Rae as she copes with body image issues, mental health problems and a complex family. And the first episode of the final series is a brilliant, heart-wrenching start to its end.
It’s now 1998 and teenage life seems to be finally treating Rae well. She’s dating on-off boyfriend Finn and spending her time drinking, dancing and having fun with her gang of friends. Life seems sweet on the surface.
But then My Mad Fat Diary does what it always pulls off so well and addresses Rae’s more troubling reality, with a real honesty. Because while things are going smoothly right now, she’s in denial about how drastically life could change once they all leave school. Rooney plays the struggle so beautifully, you can really feel Rae’s fear about her future.
While her best friend chloe (Jodie Comer) wants to fly high at business school, Rae is in two minds about whether she actually wants to go to university. And after that nightmareish Bristol interview, she’s convinced she won’t be going to that one anyway, so she concentrates on Finn. But when it turns out that those professors rather liked Rae’s boldness, she faces the agonising dilemma between staying in Stamford with her therapist and Finn (Nico Mirallegro), or risking the unknown in a town far away.
It’s a drama-filled and moving episode, with a great turn from Fresh Meat’s Faye Marsay as Rae’s intriguing new friend. It’s a bittersweet opener, as the show’s devoted fans are already mourning the show’s end. But it’s brilliant to have TV’s most real teen back on the box, even if not for much longer.