Jacki Weaver plays the older version of Gwen Picture: Supplied
Jacki Weaver plays the older version of Gwen Picture: Supplied

Gripping new TV series to binge today

It sounds silly at first - a magical plant that makes you young again, even if for a few days.

But like many stories with elements of fantasy or enchantment, it's just a framework to explore something deeper. In Bloom, that's deep-rooted regret - the one thing in your life you wished you could do over.

In Stan's new original series, released on the streaming service today, regret underpins its characters' actions - destructive, loving and passionate actions.

One year after a horrendous flood washes through Mullens, the small Victorian country town is still struggling to cope with the grief of losing five people to the fearsome waters.

But where the victims died, nature has given something in return - a magic bulb-like plant with the power to restore your youth.

First class performances lift Bloom Picture: Supplied/Stan
First class performances lift Bloom Picture: Supplied/Stan
For Ray Reed (Bryan Brown) the possibilities the plant offers is nothing short of a miracle. His wife Gwen (Jacki Weaver) is a former actor who's quickly and heart-achingly succumbing to the ravages of Alzheimer's. She is a shell of her former self and remembers little of their lives together.

Ray gives this plant to Gwen after accidentally discovering its effects when his elderly Labrador Honey ingests it in their backyard. Gwen's youth is restored to the peak of her physical condition, as her twenty-something self (Phoebe Tonkin), with the voracious sexual appetite and yearning to match.

Elsewhere, Sam (Ryan Corr) blows into town, causing havoc, stealing cars and laundry, bedding the local baker Tina (Nikki Shiels) and befriending young Isaac (Thomas Fisher).

Isaac is a peculiar kid who won't accept his mother's death, convinced she's still out there somewhere because her body hasn't been found.

Sam, of course, has a secret, with his own regrets in life to process.

The discovery of this plant stirs in the citizens of Mullens a wild introspection about what it means to have a second chance, or if we should even get a second chance. But it doesn't come without a cost - those who take it are like junkies, jonesing for the next fix, no doubt a commentary on society's obsession with and addiction to youth.

The first three episodes (out of six) made available made for review shows an intriguing and well-made series - Stan and production company Playmaker have obviously spent some decent money on this.

The pilot episode's tone can be inconsistent and the show overall is sometimes too distracted by unnecessary stylistic touches - even though it's beautifully lit and photographed, its use of slow-motion is heavy-handed, like it's trying too hard to create a mood.

But its concept, rooted in the universally relatable theme of regret, is strong and generally well executed.

Bad boy
Bad boy

What separates Bloom from lower-end supernatural dramas (and Tidelands comes to mind because of its recent release) is its performances are really excellent.

When you have first class actors like Brown grounding your show, it makes all the difference when it hinges on viewers buying into the magical realism of its world.

And actors like Brown, Weaver, Tonkin, Corr and Sam Reid (who plays the young version of Gwen's childhood love Max) bring gravitas to an idea that could easily spin into the ridiculous.

Their nuanced performances infuse in their characters empathy and humanity not always present in many of these types of dramas. You have to give the casting guys credit for nabbing them, and for matching the older and younger versions very convincingly.

Bloom is not perfect, it lacks some finesse, but it's a really engaging series with a gripping and thoughtful premise that you'll want to see through to the end.

Bloom is available to stream on Stan from today.

Share your TV and movie obsessions: @wenleima

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