Benedict Cumberbatch’s Most Extraordinary Acting

British high society and its decadent aristocracy go under the knife in Patrick Melrose. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, the opulent production adapts a series of five semi-autobiographical novels by Edward St Aubyn across five episodes.

The bleak drama follows the tumultuous life of Patrick Melrose from childhood to his struggles as an adult, a womanizing heroin addict that struggles with sobriety. Traumatic events as a child scar the man for life, leading to dependency and other troubling issues.

Nominated for five Emmy awards, Patrick Melrose is a devastating look at the social snobbery and moral rot of the British aristocracy. It’s tough, complicated and layered drama with an edge towards the dry wit often favored by the British, designed from the ground up for award season.

Sexually abused as a young boy by his brilliant but cruel father (Hugo Weaving), Patrick Melrose (Benedict Cumberbatch) grows up with a neglectful mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) oblivious to her son’s troubles. Patrick ultimately becomes a wayward adult with serious drug issues hiding a number of his personal demons.

The series jumps in place and time throughout Patrick’s life over the course of the five episodes. From his traumatic sexual abuse as a child in the 1960s to London in 2005, flashbacks detail Patrick’s sordid life and wasted existence as a member of high society, meeting such luminaries as Princess Margaret at a snobby dinner party.

Captivating in spurts, this is demanding drama that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea

Led by a bravura starring turn by Benedict Cumberbatch, the former Sherlock Holmes stretches his acting muscles in ways his bigger roles like Dr. Strange never allow. It’s an exceptional cast, no doubt procured by the chance to work in this prestige project with Cumberbatch. Beyond the fierce performance by the always reliable Hugo Weaving (The Matrix), other cast members included Blythe Danner (Meet the Parents), Allison Williams (Get Out), Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife), and Indira Varma (Game of Thrones).

Patrick Melrose is exceedingly ambitious for a five-episode run and director Edward Berger bites off more than he can chew with the sprawling saga. The non-linear narrative and jarring flashbacks make for demanding viewing. An array of characters come and go in Patrick’s life over the decades. It’s quite easy getting lost if you aren’t paying rapt attention. Some care has been made to give each episode its own aesthetic and tone, highlighting the different points in Patrick’s family life.

The superb acting and outstanding production values show excellent craft. There’s also a touch of dry black comedy in the grim drama usually commenting on the decadent aristocracy’s hypocrisies and foibles. Captivating in spurts, this is demanding drama that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

Patrick Melrose is really designed as a showcase for Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of a broken and tortured soul, reminding us he is more than the superhero Dr. Strange. In that regard, it’s an unqualified success. But Patrick Melrose is not easy material to digest with its stark exploration of dark themes. This is a series made for adults in every sense of the word.


Commanding cinematography and stellar production design help give each of the five episodes a unique feel. The British drama has razor-sharp definition and vivid clarity. Inky black levels and a fine contrast make for striking video quality at times. The clean digital cinematography enjoys pushing extremely fine detail in close-ups. There is immense depth and dimension in exterior scenes.

The five hourly episodes are spread over two BD-50s. Patrick Melrose receives a perfect transfer for Blu-ray with a completely transparent AVC encode. The joint Sky-Showtime production is distributed by RLJ Entertainment. British television productions have of late become some of the most reliable providers of immaculate picture quality and Patrick Melrose follows in that tradition.


The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack features a sensible surround mix with appropriate immersion for dramatic fare. A few pop standards are used to supplement the musical score. Tight bass and crystal-clear dialogue are nicely mixed with wide dynamic range, allowing a well-defined soundstage.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font.


Acorn Media includes an extensive 36-page booklet filled with major cast and crew interviews, making up for the lack of special features on the discs themselves. A glib behind-the-scenes featurette summarizes the major characters and briefly interviews actors such as Jennifer Jason Leigh and Hugo Weaving on their characters.

The two-disc Blu-ray set does have a slipcover.

Behind The Scenes Featurette (05:25 in HD) – A standard EPK featurette made for promotional purposes.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Patrick Melrose
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A captivating Benedict Cumberbatch makes this laborious and bleak British drama on high society a contender for Emmys.

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