Last week, Netflix released a six-episode series that charmed me. It’s called “Feel Good,” and it’s Canadian comic Mae Martin’s semi-autobiographical story of her relationship with a British woman who, until their romance, considered herself straight. Like Showtime’s “Work in Progress” and Hulu’s “The Bisexual,” it makes room for a variety of gender and sexual identities as it tells its queer heroine’s story with great intimacy, frankness, and humor.
Mae the character has a habit of falling for women who don’t think of themselves as lesbians. She’s hooked on the challenge. Now living in a small English town, she has a new girlfriend named George (Charlotte Ritchie) — “She’s like a dangerous Mary Poppins,” Mae says. The pair are clearly in love and lust, and they move in together; but George is extremely wary about coming out to her narrow-minded friends. She leads them to believe she’s seeing a guy, which, when Mae finds out, leaves her distraught and angry. It’s an old story, the closeted partner living a lie, but the chemistry between Mae and George, and the actresses’ dimensionality, give it a welcome freshness.
Not that Mae isn’t sitting on a secret or two. She has yet to tell George that she’s an addict who is in recovery. She has a sponsor — played with a high-strung eccentricity by Sophie Thompson — but she’s not thrilled with the meeting she attends. Meanwhile, Mae’s parents appear in a few episodes, and, fortunately, they’re played by Lisa Kudrow and Adrian Lukis. They know their daughter well — Mom is a bit of a bully, and she’s still exhausted by her daughter’s years of using — and, alas, they can see her familiar romantic pattern taking shape.
That’s pretty much it plot-wise, but “Feel Good” is wonderfully complex emotionally. It’s about love and neurosis, it’s about the meaning of friendship and parenthood, it’s about freedom and choice and identity and self-awareness — all of which may sound heavy, but it plays out effortlessly in the agile script. For me, Martin is a revelation — slyly funny, charismatic, restless, and on the edge. She and her brisk comedy-drama made me — wait for it — feel good.