This Is Going to Hurt is the tv adaptation of the best-selling memoir by Adam Kay, chronicling the daily struggles of a junior doctor in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Now a 7-part BBC series starring Ben Whishaw, the show blends humour and heartfelt drama with an interesting commentary on the NHS, with rather mixed success.
Ben Whishaw is Doctor Adam Kay, an acting registrar in the Obstetrics and Gynaecology department in St Clare’s hospital in London. The show opens with Adam waking from a slumber, finding himself still sitting in his car in the hospital car park, having never left after falling asleep following his shift the day before. Heading resignedly back into work, he encounters a woman experiencing a difficult labour outside of the hospital. After rushing her inside in a rather unconventional manner, he assists in delivering her baby safely while giving us a crash course introduction to the chaos of an NHS labour ward.
Alongside Adam on the ward is junior doctor Shruti (Ambika Mod), who is trying to learn the ropes from Adam while feeling overwhelmed with the pressure, and midwife Tracy (Michele Austin), who looks after the ward and attempts to rescue her patients from Adam’s often less than friendly bedside manner. There are also consultants Mr Lockhart (Alex Jennings), who arrives at the hospital every day in a flash car and prefers not to get involved in the messy side of the work, and Miss Houghton (Ashley McGuire), who deals with the pressure by joking with everyone she meets. Each day brings a new test, including the delivery of triplets, a pregnant woman with an abusive husband and even a lawsuit following a misdiagnosed patient.
As well as facing the trials of a busy hospital, Adam must also navigate his home life and the complicated relationships he has with his friends and family. He lives with his partner Harry (Rory Fleck Byrne), yet hasn’t told his parents that he’s gay, and he struggles to keep up with his friends even when he’s acting as best man for his friend Greg (Tom Durant Pritchard). As the series progresses, Adam must face yet more struggles at work as his career begins to unravel.
This Is Going to Hurt is rather unusual in that for the most part it easily mixes a witty, sharp and funny script with some rather heartfelt and poignant stories. It also adopts a breaking the fourth wall style that really adds to both the humour and the audience’s understanding of the medical jargon and procedures that take place. Having read and loved the book, this is very in keeping with Kay’s memoirs that made me both laugh and cry in equal measure. The problem with this series though, is sometimes the attempts at humour go too far and Whishaw’s Kay winds up coming across as rather cruel and mean and this isn’t how he portrays himself in his book. It’s just too harsh to be believable, especially when some rather questionable acts of malpractice arise that are just brushed over. This cruel nature also seems to contradict Adam’s more human, emotional side and I think they’ve gone too far with his cynicism. Despite Whishaw’s good performance, this struggles to make Adam a truly likeable character.
I’m also not convinced by the plot and storyline used here. Part of what made Kay’s book so enjoyable was the separate anecdotes connected with an overarching commentary on the state of the NHS. While this is all evident in the series, for me it felt stifled by the overly dramatized storylines. It felt like some of the soap-like drama was too much and I’m not convinced that this 7-part series was the best way to really highlight the problems faced by doctors in the NHS. The commentary is here, from problems with technology to credits for scrubs and understaffing, but it seems to be side-lined in favour of Adam’s personal and work troubles and just isn’t a patch on the book. It does give an interesting comparison of private versus NHS hospitals, but this comes far too late in the penultimate episode. It has the spirit of the book, just not the heart. Despite this, it is still fairly interesting and entertaining and the amount of blood and gore works surprisingly well. I laughed a fair amount, the cast all put in wonderful performances, and I did feel satisfied that they did try and include the real picture of the NHS, even if it did feel too muted. A standout was a fairly shocking event in episode 6, which was both surprising and incredibly heart-wrenching. This Is Going to Hurt is an interesting watch that does well to blend laughs with fairly heart-warming (and heart-breaking) stories. Unfortunately, it’s too heavy-handed with the sombre and over the top drama, meaning it doesn’t quite live up to the brilliance of the book.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!