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Recap “us”: part 1 | WTTW Chicago




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“I think our marriage may be over,” Connie tells Douglas as they lie in bed trying to fall asleep. They have been together for twenty-four years and have a teenage son, Albie, who will soon be leaving for college, but Connie is ready to change. It’s not that she doesn’t like Douglas; she just needs something new. The couple talk all night, Douglas trying to figure it out as Connie tries to express her feelings.

The day has dawned when they finally exhaust the conversation and try to sleep. But the doorbell wakes them up: grocery delivery. Douglas is irritable now; whatever truce he and Connie had reached is now shattered by his anger. He picks up things to throw in the landfill, then sits in his car and cries.

When he gets home, Connie tells him that they should always go on a three week vacation, a grand tour of Europe, for Albie’s sake. Douglas refuses.

But when Connie leaves for work, Douglas looks out the window, then rushes past his car – with no shoes on – eventually catches her on the street. We should go on vacation, he tells her as the cars honk. Maybe I didn’t pay enough attention to you.

At home, he types a “note to himself,” listing ways to show Connie he can change – or make her change her mind. He just needs to be a little less rigid and get along better with Albie.

Easier said than done. Douglas is a biochemist who enjoys chatting about facts and figures. He follows in her footsteps and is obsessed with making 10,000 a day, he plans endlessly, wants everything to be perfect and claims to love art but not understand it. Connie and Albie, on the other hand, are more artistic: she practiced art early on and now works in community arts, he is an aspiring photographer. Both are spontaneous, comfortable and happy at parties and with other people.

Connie and Douglas met when his bohemian sister invited him to a dinner party and organized them. Douglas quickly got into a fight with a circus performer about medicine and the importance of science. Connie was in a phase of taking a lot of drugs and yearning for more inhibitions; Douglas personified inhibition. Eventually, Connie asked her to walk her home, eight miles away. At the end, she invited him to her room.

Despite Douglas’s attempts to become interested in Albie’s photography, Albie leaves alone to take pictures and tries to act once he arrives in Paris. Connie and Douglas have dinner to themselves. When he tries to revisit the past, she encourages him to live more in the present moment. They ride an electric scooter after the meal and end up having sex.

I’m confused too, Connie told Douglas afterward. Then their sleep is interrupted again, this time by first the music of the next room – that of Albie – then the unmistakable sounds of sex. They try to ignore it and read all night.

They meet Albie’s friend the next morning, a free-spirited girl named Kat who has been roaming Europe alone for years. Douglas is offended when she pockets the food from the buffet.

He tries to bond with Albie by talking about Kat after she leaves them, but Albie is embarrassed. At the Louvre, Douglas doesn’t stop talking, now chatting endlessly about art, much to the chagrin of Albie and Connie. He tries to be more spontaneous, less rigid, but he’s having a hard time. When he accidentally gets chili oil in his eyes during a dinner at a Sichuan restaurant selected by Albie, he abruptly leaves the restaurant.

It’s hard to live when the moment is so hard, he tells Connie when she calls him. I feel like losing you both, he says as she finds him. He wonders aloud what it would have been like if their daughter had survived. Connie was pregnant with a girl when they got married. She was born a few weeks earlier and survived childbirth, but that’s all we know. Connie and Douglas always have a box labeled “June” in their house.

Connie and Albie are artistic while Douglas claims to love art but doesn’t understand it. Photo: masterpiece

In Amsterdam, Connie and Douglas are surprised when Kat introduces herself – Albie invited her. She wants to show the party side of Amsterdam, but Douglas has a strict itinerary and resists, going after Albie for wanting to change his plans. Connie decides to join Albie and Kat in a cannabis store but fails to convince Douglas.

Instead, he has a few drinks on his own before finally deciding to join his family. Albie tells Connie that he’ll text Douglas to find out where they are, but he never does.

Douglas always feared being a killjoy, from the moment he was dating Connie for the first time. A conversation about her fear led her to say “I love you” first. He eventually returned the favor, after she joined him at the house – he had left a party earlier.

In Amsterdam, he’s frustrated with looking for his bike and smashes someone else’s bike, then heads to a weed shop for something that will relax him. He smokes, alone, in the jacuzzi of his hotel room. When Connie finally returns from an evening of entertainment, he tells her that he regrets not having been lighter over the years and that he loves her and Albie. She fell asleep.

But an argument over breakfast is a breaking point. When Kat and Albie try to defend a waitress from rude customers, Douglas intervenes, apologizing for his son’s “silly” behavior.

Albie storms off. Connie tells Douglas that he should have stood up for her son. This party has become unbearable, she said; we should go home. I thought you could change, that I could recognize a trace of the man I fell in love with, but “the reason I can’t love you is because it’s you.”

In their hotel room, they find a note from Albie. He left with Kat. I feel like I can’t do anything right, he writes, and it looks like you need to sort things out. Don’t try to get in touch; I will contact you when the time is right.

At the station — Connie wants to go home — Douglas receives a call from her hotel in Venice. It looks like Albie has moved the stash up, posing as Douglas. As Connie walks away in an escalator with their luggage, Douglas decides to go to Venice and find his son. He wants to correct all his mistakes.

In Venice, at the hotel where he and Connie stayed on their honeymoon, Douglas asks the concierge to tell him if Albie is showing up, but not to tell Albie Douglas he’s there. For lack of luggage, he buys an “I Love Venice” shirt to change.

At an early breakfast, the only other woman introduces a conversation, but he cuts the conversation off to search for Albie, showing photos of his son to buskers and people on the street.

He meets the breakfast woman again, whose name is Freja. They have coffee and he describes his plan to find Albie. She too is alone in Venice, celebrating her divorce. Once again, Douglas cuts the meeting short to search for Albie.

That evening, he talks to Connie as he soaks his blistered feet. I’ve gone a little crazy, he told her: maybe it’s a nervous breakdown, or a midlife crisis, or a combination of the two. But he’s determined to find Albie.

He may be trying to redeem himself from an argument he had with his son some time earlier over Albie’s future. Douglas worries that Albie won’t survive as a photographer and wants him to find something more practical for a career. “It is a mistake to believe that you are special,” he told his son.

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