If anyone still had any doubts left about Kathryn Hahn’s ability to carry an emotional and heavy story on her own, this performance will put those doubts to bed. She stars in Hulu’s new original miniseries based on the best-selling book by Cheryl Strayed Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar“. It follows Clare, a floundering writer who becomes a revered advice columnist while her own life is falling apart. It is adapted by Liz Tigelaar and stars Kathryn Hahn, Quentin Plair, Sarah Pidgeon, Tanzyn Crawford and Merritt Wever.
At the end of one of the episodes, our protagonist Clare repeatedly asks herself “Who am I?”, this gives us a pretty good insight on how lost the character feels and how far she is from what she wanted to be. We get introduced to our main character at a point when most aspects of her life are in turmoil. She reluctantly becomes an advice columnist and tries to rediscover herself along the way while helping people anonymously under the pseudonym ‘Dear Sugar’. The storytelling follows Clare in 2 different timelines, one in the present day and the other following a younger version of herself through extended flashbacks.
A lot of the story focuses on the mother-daughter relationship, both with Clare and her mother and Clare with her daughter Rae. Both relationships are very different to each other yet both are beautifully portrayed with regular doses of emotional and touching moments. Clare has been through a lot throughout her life and uses her own experiences to help strangers, but struggles to mend her relationship with her daughter who seems to get more and more distant from her. I enjoyed the relationship between Clare and her mother, it felt very passionate and affectionate. I also hoped that we had more time with her brother Lucas and her husband Danny.
The entire cast does a fine job of naturally displaying what their characters are going through, with Hahn being the standout. She carried many scenes on her own effortlessly shifting between light drama and strong emotion in the blink of an eye while ensuring that she is believable and relatable. The writing team also does a great job of carefully interweaving several themes and subplots that add to the experience. Though the pacing is sometimes inconsistent, as some episodes feel a little too slow, while some feel too tight. I also wish that they explored Clare’s resurgence as a writer a little more.
The show’s background score is also beautifully crafted, adding depth and emotion to each scene, especially ones where Clare is writing her advice columns. It perfectly complements the themes of the show, which revolve around love, loss, and the human experience. The color grading and the direction do well to maintain the distinction between timelines and make sure that the focus is always on our main character and her story. Some of the dialogue is very powerful and riveting and hits you hard, while some of it is intentionally raw, which I thought was brilliantly balanced.
Tiny Beautiful Things is a heartening, captivating and emotional journey that will make you smile and cry. The character study of Clare is wonderfully portrayed as she deals with loss, trauma and companionship. It also does a great job of giving you wisdom and hope. Its charm lies in its simplicity and the ease with which it navigates through the complexities of life’s challenges and makes us fall in love with the tiny, beautiful things in our lives that make every day magical.