Sadler has been collecting content for Such Brave Girls for a majority of her existence. The show loosely follows her own life, with Sadler taking on the role of Josie. Josie has a lengthy past of experiencing depression, suicidal ideation, and struggling with her mental health. Several years ago, Sadler was involuntarily hospitalized after two attempts at ending her life. When lockdown began, she confided in her sister, Lizzie Davidson, about her struggles. In turn, Davidson revealed that she was secretly in debt by £20,000. As they burst into laughter, Sadler had a realization that this could potentially be used as inspiration for her art.
The connection between sisters and their ability to find humor in difficult situations is a key element in the TV show Sadler developed. The show, which also includes Davidson as Josie’s sister Billie, marks her debut as a TV writer. Despite her background as a stand-up comedian and her work on The Mash Report and Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back, Sadler’s lack of experience does not greatly impact the quality of the show.
The initial few episodes fail to properly introduce the characters or their relationships, resulting in a slow pace due to infrequent comedic moments. However, by the third episode, the show effectively portrays the gloomy existence of Josie, who struggles with the scars of a difficult upbringing and being abandoned by their father a decade earlier, and the overconfident but equally insecure Billie. From then on, the remaining episodes are filled with a wickedly enjoyable energy.
It maintains the initial unsentimental and ruthless tone. The mother, Deb (played brilliantly by Louise Brealey as an unaffectionate and unstable parent) has a new partner, Dev (portrayed by Paul Bazely as both bumbling and unsettling), and uses private threats to control her daughters’ behavior in his presence. Their father left them in debt and Deb is desperate to find a financially stable replacement. “I’m going to call him Daddy,” declares Josie as the sisters come together to strategize. “But only in a sexual manner,” adds Billie.
We explore Billie’s intense feelings for Nicky (played by Sam Buchanan), the destructive man she desires; Josie’s inner turmoil as she discovers her attraction to a woman (Jude Mack) while being obligated to give handjobs twice a week to her jealous boyfriend, Seb (Freddie Meredith); and Deb’s increasing burden of deceit as she tries to maintain her relationship with Dev, who is more interested in his iPad and relies on her financially.
In this world, there are many narcissists and people who have experienced trauma. Nothing in this world goes according to plan. Josie’s struggles with mental health only anger Deb, who refuses to allow any eating disorders in their home. Deb’s advice to Josie is to stop thinking, stop feeling, and stop letting her emotions control her. The story also includes elements of pregnancy, concerns over appearing too available to a romantic partner, abortion, drug use, partying, camping, religious awakening, the loss of loved ones, and the destruction of hope and ambition. Despite the intense and often negative subject matter, there are also moments of dark humor.
It is a special pleasure to witness a show written and led by women that fearlessly explores deep themes. One example of this is when their grandmother shared a heartfelt, yet potentially fabricated, account of being physically abused by her caretakers at night. This moment may seem small, but it captures the essence and success of the show.
These courageous young women are truly bold, unique, edgy, and fearless. However, they are also humorous – or rather, this is a consequence of their personalities. Hopefully, a second season, hinted at by the conclusion, will eventually succeed, just like the girls.
The show “Such Brave Girls” was broadcast on BBC Three and can now be watched on BBC iPlayer.