In Lust, now streaming on HBO Max, four middle-aged women struggle with the roles that have been imposed on them in their families, careers, and relationships, all while trying to get in touch with their respective sexual identities. From battling waning libidos and disinterested (and unfaithful) partners to trying to find people worth spending time in bed with, this group of friends has their work cut out for them.
LUST: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: “I love sex,” a woman tells us.
The Gist: Anette (Sofia Helin) is leading a sex study at the public health agency. While things aren’t necessarily going spectacularly in that department in her own life (she tries to have sex with her still sleeping husband before work one morning only for him to wake up and accuse her of rape), she believes that the work she’s doing is good, even if she feels like she’s a little uncomfortable and inexperienced with the subject matter. Her sister Martina (Elin Klinga), meanwhile, is desperate to buy her husband out of his half of the house following an ugly cheating scandal that has left the former couple under the same roof with his new 25-year-old girlfriend. Then there’s Nadia (Anja Lundqvist), a mother of 3 boys (including her potty-mouthed youngest), who might just lose her goddamn mind if she has to pick up another piece of dirty laundry or finds one more horrifying pile of pubes on the floor in the bathroom. Then there’s Ellen (Julia Dufvenius), a car saleswoman and writer who we first meet while she’s having sex with a man she’s lied to about her age.
So there’s our group of women, all struggling in their own ways to make sense of their sexuality and how it connects to their respective identities. In the first installment of Lust, “Sex is a Highway to Health”, we only skim the surface of their lives, getting the opportunity to see the sexual harassment Anette faces at work, the strained relationship Nadia has with her husband, Ellen’s talent for lying, and Martina’s precarious living situation. They’re all ready to blow at any moment, desperately in need of answers and some kind of change. The only place to start is squatting over a mirror to look inward.
Our Take: Female friend groups make for good television; shows like Sex and the City, Girls, The Bold Type, and even Big Little Lies have all won our hearts with their strong bonds and compelling stories. Lust joins the ranks easily thanks to a stellar cast and no-frills storytelling, instead choosing to keep the focus on the character development and significant themes (even when things get silly). With other series like Dead to Me and Firefly Lane, there’s definitely been an uptick in stories about women over 40 in recent memory, but Lust feels like it’s entering new territory with its fearlessness around sexuality. It wastes no time getting to the good stuff, making it feel as though it’s been ripped from the pages of a woman’s journal and turned into a small screen adaptation for our viewing pleasure.
The honesty in Lust is what makes it sing, presenting us with a group of women that feel real and fleshed out even after a 30-minute pilot. There is so much ahead for this foursome, but the taste we get in “Sex is a Highway to Health” is enough to demonstrate what Lust has in store for us in the coming installments. The seeds planted are deeply intriguing ones, from Nadia’s relationship with her children and Anette’s desire to learn more about her body and sexuality to Martina’s public shaming of her cheating husband and Ellen’s ability to lie like a rug. Lust finds the humor in the horrifying and the significance in the sexiness, which makes it something of a wonder. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.
Sex and Skin: It’s a show called Lust, isn’t it? The pilot kicks off with women discussing their feelings about sex, and things start off with an awkward bang when Anette tries to sleep with her husband, who she thinks is awake. There’s plenty more ahead for our four leading ladies, including some self-indulgent sex in front of a mirror.
Parting Shot: Anette smiles as she squats over a mirror.
Sleeper Star: Elin Klinga makes a strong impression right out of the gate as Anette’s sister Martina, a woman still wounded from her husband’s infidelity. There’s a little spark of madness in her eyes, an unpredictability that makes her a delight to watch especially when put alongside these other vastly different women. She’s both terrifying and totally charming, a perfect combination.
Most Pilot-y Line: Some of the opening, interview-style dialogue falls into pilot-y category, including “sex is the reason we all exist, right?”
Our Call: STREAM IT. Lust‘s lovable cast and refreshing attitude towards female sexuality makes it easy to fall for.
Jade Budowski is a freelance writer with a knack for ruining punchlines, hogging the mic at karaoke, and thirst-tweeting. Follow her on Twitter: @jadebudowski.