Few women in Winslet’s demographic would disagree. Though, it must be said, that she’s not adverse to the odd bit of lipstick and a push-up bra. But unlike other women on our screens, Mare doesn’t suddenly morph into an air-brushed supermodel when she alights down her stairs. There is no reality TV “reveal”; she is still just herself.
At the beginning of the pandemic, when lockdown still felt like a bad dream, we binged on shows like Tiger King and 90 Day Fiance. Crass and surreal, they provided the perfect escape from the real-life nightmare of worldwide panic, illness and death. They were brimming with colourful characters who were ultimately deluded – it made for easy entertainment. We could laugh, while delirious from lockdown and our over-consumption of booze and junk food, safe in the knowledge that our lives may be crumbling, our jobs gone, but at least we weren’t those people.
Fast-forward to June 2021, and a frosty winter, colder than it has been in years, blankets us in a pandemic that is going on far longer than we anticipated. And, now, with a lockdown for the 7 million people in Victoria – and the threat that it may spread again to other states – and our mood has shifted from delirium to the bleak, dank disappointment of hope deferred. And few feel it more than mothers, who have had to shoulder the lion’s share of parenting kids while in lockdown, while still working. Mothers – and Winslet has said the series is essentially about mothers – have only enough emotional bandwidth for their kids and their jobs, and, if we’re lucky, that one friend who is limping along too. Everything else is off the table.
So it’s no wonder that it’s Mare’s face we are casually obsessed with. Her tired countenance, a face that looks its 46 years, framed by untouched hair – that’s our hair now. Winslet has the fine lines of a proper person who has lived and the clear, almost luminous skin of a woman who once inhabited a miserable role, but is now, as we will one day be, on the other side of it.