Having read The Slap earlier this year, I was keen to make the series part of my getting up to speed with Oz film. There are changes, of course, but I have to say that they all work. In particular the ending is changed. In the novel the idea that the husband wasn’t having an affair with the girl is believed by the wife. Here in the series, she doesn’t believe it. But she decides, after a few days on her own, to put up with the fact that it happened. It’s more convincing and likely than the book’s denouement.
One thing about the series drove me crazy. People keep saying ‘I love you’ in that appalling trivial way I am given to understand is American. You leave the room to go to the lavatory and you say ‘I love you’. If there was somebody in the room with you, of course. It makes me wonder what people say when they mean ‘I love you’, if ‘I love you’ has now become no more than ‘I’m leaving the room for five minutes to pee’. Ugggh. And thankfully Tsiolkas isn’t that crass.
The series manages to make the Greek Family into the true monster Tsiolkas wants in both this and The Jesus Man. Koula, the matriarch, is a revolting triumph of a character in the hands of Toula Yianni. The oppressive weight of the ever present familial expectations and obligations are crystal clear. Watching it made me happy that my parents disowned their families. That sounds horrifying to some, but to have those onerous ties, forever doing something for somebody because they did something for you or vice versa, eating too much fried food, having to be nice to people you might not be able to stand, the constant threat of ‘The Family’ hanging over you – I’m generally grateful for having escaped all that. This series and Tsiolkas’ books remind me of why.