Russell T. Davies’ It’s A Sin centers on a group of young friends contending with the AIDS epidemic in 1980s England. Ritchie (Olly Alexander) has left his family, whom he is not out to yet, on the Isle of Wight to explore his sexuality in London. He meets Jill (Lydia West) at Uni, where they share a passion for performing. Jill introduces Ritchie to the studious handsome Ash (Nathaniel Curtis). Along the way they meet Roscoe (Omari Douglas) who has run away from his overly religious Nigerian family. Rounding out the group is shy sweet Colin (Cullum Scott Howells), a Welsh tailor. The friends rent a large flat where they throw wild parties, entertain a revolving door of sexual partners, and enjoy a genuinely happy life together. As a viewer you quickly grow to care about these characters. That makes it difficult to watch as the shadow of AIDS falls over them.
In the early days, there was a lot of hearsay and misinformation about the disease. News outlets weren’t covering it and doctors weren’t informing their patients. Plus, in England, it was considered to be an American disease since it seemed to originate there. It makes sense that in an age without the internet, information wouldn’t be able to get out easily. Most films or TV show about the beginning of AIDS only focus on how people in the US dealt with it. I found this UK perspective to be very interesting. I was also surprised about the denial. Ritchie claims the disease is a hoax and there couldn’t be a “gay cancer”. He is soon proven wrong.
Davies does a great job of balancing the harsh reality of the era with five coming of age stories. You see these characters trying to figure out who they are and what they want out of life. In some cases, a brief life. Ritchie and Jill strive to become actors, Colin desperately wants someone to love, and Roscoe has a secret affair with a politician. Ash doesn’t have much of a storyline though. He should have been given more to do. On the flip side, I could have done with less of Ritchie. Yes, he’s the main character, but he’s also incredibly self-absorbed and infuriating. It made him hard to root for at times. Another complaint is that Jill is often reduced to the role of the supportive caretaker for the guys. She doesn’t have much of a personal life and never has a love interest. She deserved more development.
Despite these faults, Sin is a well-done series. The writing and direction are sharp and all of the actors are perfectly cast. There’s also a soundtrack full of 80s gems that enhance each episode. It’s a beautifully heartfelt show about a tragic period in history.