What would you be like if all your negative traits were removed. What if you could undergo a procedure to literally ‘be your best self’? And what if the best you met the current you and had to share the same life? Living With Yourself explores this concept by using an easy access dark comedy angle.
Miles (Paul Rudd) is in a rut. He has lost his passion for his work, he is dodging the fertility test needed to see if he can start a family with his wife, and the days just drag by. So when a colleague tells him of an exclusive ‘spa’ that for $50,000 will make you into your best self, he plunders all his savings. But things clearly have taken a turn when, after undergoing the procedure, he awakes wrapped in plastic and buried alive…
Turns out the spa was actually a ‘speed cloning’ facility. A clone is created, has the memories of the original downloaded into it, and it is genetically altered to remove negative traits. But due to an accident, the original Miles has survived, and now has to find a way to deal with a perfect version of himself swanning around the place.
This is a great concept that is mostly underused. Rudd puts in an excellent double shift of performances as both versions of Miles but the ‘best version’ concept seems to fade in and out as convenient. Skipping the fact that the colleague who referred Miles is such a tool that it’s hard to believe he’s the best version of himself, with Miles the cloned version soon picks up some negative traits. Buying a gun later on, for instance…
Instead, the show just uses this as a starting point in order to create as much ‘how would you cope with a better you’ tension as possible. This is well executed through a constant ‘split narrative’ format, whereby we spend most of an episode following one Miles, only for the timeline to jump and show us what replacement Miles was up to.
Kate (Aisling Bea) is also a joy to watch. As Miles’ wife, she finds herself torn with two versions of her husband. Kate is every woman trying to shake their husband into being better. Indeed, it is Kate who helps drag the show out the rut it creates for itself. Even over only 8 half-hour episodes past the halfway point events do begin to drag.
Miles’ important work pitch for a lucrative advertising campaign is used as the unifying thread but by nature of having two of him, however engaging Rudd’s performance is, the scenes can get predictable. So when a whole episode is dedicated to Kate’s point of view up to that point in the narrative it is a welcome breath of fresh air.
Ultimately, Living With Yourself is unintentionally fatalistic. It takes little time to explore its own intriguing concept. It plays out like a sequence of events that are a fun trip but reach no destination. In a closed system, all things will succumb to entropy and as the original Miles never lets in any realisation of his own shortcomings what you are left with is a feedback loop that suggests as the credits role, the uncomfortable trio will disintegrate further.
Living With Yourself is like half-hearted self-improvement: you can get into it fully at the time, but it won’t linger in your mind once finished.
Words by Michael Record