Happily married, mid-thirties, and without children, Gillian (Jemima Kirke) and Oliver (Richard Elis) may not be moving at the pace of other couples, but they’re happy. However, parents and friends have been pestering Gillian to move past her meandering writing career and get a new more stable job.
Despite Oliver’s initial doubts, their decision to mount a “Shakespeare by the Sea” festival starts to take shape. It seems like a winning idea, yet it’s not all a midsummer night’s dream, as cracks in their organisational skills start to surface, and reveal the fragile nature of their relationship. Will this new step in life prove fruitful for them, or will it become akin to some Shakespearean tragedy?
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Gillian (Jemima Kirke) and Oliver (Richard Elis) are out on a walk, taking in the beautiful, if blustery, outdoors experience. They sit on a bench talking about the brilliance of where they live, working, and having a family. They kiss, and all seems sweet between them.
The next morning, in bed, Oliver remembers Gillian arguing with his mother the night before. We cut to a flashback, with Gillian telling Oliver’s mother off down the phone, saying she needs to stop ringing so frequently and that, “I’m the woman in his life”. Back in the bed, they reminisce more about the night before, with arguments about daily chores, and their working schedule. Oliver tries to take the higher ground by saying he has a job, and pays the bills (bar those that his mother pays for).
At Gillian’s job, we see her and Oliver watching actors rehearse Shakespeare on a hall stage. Gillian is trying to direct the actors, who seem to be a little perturbed by the direction. A new woman, Rachel (Sarah Solemani), comes on stage and alters the tense atmosphere. Oliver is ecstatic to see her – they go back to their school days – and they hug and giggle. Gillian then cuts in, clearly agitated by all of this.
Oliver and Gillian discuss this meeting in bed – Gillian facetiously bigging Rachel up. Oliver says she’s being mean, and that he (and Rachel) would only be looking to help. Recalling that afternoon, when Oliver’s parents – Janet (Joanna Scanlan) and David (William Thomas) – arrive as well as Rachel, Oliver notes how Gillian mockingly pretended performing hara-kiri in response to all the niceties. He also reminds her that he couldn’t go out for a meal with them, all due to her.
Oliver’s phone ringing interrupts the discussion in bed, and it’s Mike (Robert Wilfort) at the theatre, telling them there’s a sewage leak and the Shakespeare Festival can’t go ahead there now. Stressed from the phone-call and realising she’s late for a meeting, Gillian rushes off, leaving Oliver without transport to get to Mike.
Needing to walk to see Mike, Oliver is randomly met on the way by Rachel. He apologies for missing the meal, and tells her how helpful she is and how much he and Gillian value her. She recites more Shakespeare, in response to how happy she is to hear this. They walk together to the theatre, with Mike bursting out gasping for air. There’s no chance it can be used as venue, so Rachel offers her help.
Meanwhile, Gillian is in Cardiff, leaving a message apologising to Oliver for the morning dash. She also adds that to change the venue or push it back would save the festival. Her appointment in Cardiff is with Gerry (Alice Lowe), in relation to another show – her own play. Gerry asks Gillian if they could continue the meeting over lunch, and both head off.
Oliver and Rachel are having their own afternoon together, listening to music, and then trying to arrange a marquee for the Shakespeare Festival. The first call made by Rachel sorts it in minutes and Oliver hugs her in excitement, and then kisses her. Jeffrey (Dan Clark) interjects quickly, partly to celebrate, and to stop them.
As Rachel and Oliver get drunk, so do Gillian and Gerry, taking shots and having pints during their business lunch. Gerry talks about how Gillian’s play was a great way at spotlighting the “pointlessness of men”. Gillian starts to realise Gerry is a lesbian, and thinks of leaving to stop the advances. As she goes to head home, there’s a quick change of heart, and she sits down next to her. Gerry tells her that she “is the play” and that she should be on the poster. Gerry gets closer to her, eskimo kissing her, and asserts that the “play is on” – with all the praise and excitement, Gillian takes up the offer of going back to Gerry’s flat.
Gillian quickly rings Oliver and they catch up on the phone. She mentions that, because of all the drinking, she won’t drive home and will grab a taxi. Oliver happily wraps up the conversation noting the Festival getting produced, yet avoids the “I love you” sign-off in regard to Rachel being there. With Rachel his current dirty secret, so is Gerry for Gillian – the pair dancing, embracing and finally kissing in Gerry’s flat.
The next morning, Gillian slinks in, heading straight for the bed, and asking Oliver that he never leave her. He worriedly asks what she means but Gillian nods off. It isn’t until her bath later in the day that they talk about not going through another blip, and to start thinking about kids – needing to have more sex would help, Gillian hints. The meaningful chat continues later, as dinner cooks, with Gillian casually chatting about the good meeting with Gerry, and then the kissing. Oliver mentions his own kiss with Rachel and whilst they try and laugh both off, awkwardness is felt. Both don’t want to be angry, but each can’t decide on whose kiss had greater implications. They end by hugging each other, trying to maintain their closeness.
The next day Oliver and Gillian walk to the marquee, awkwardly bumping into Rachel on the way. Jeffrey is there to ease some of the tension, but only by mentioning the actors unhappy with the Shakespeare material. Oliver suggests doing Gillian’s play instead.
In a private moment with his dad, Oliver and David talk about relationships, with Oliver admitting to him about Rachel, as well as Gillian and some other woman. David is taken aback, but they both agree it was a drunken mistake by both parties.
Gillian is alone in the house, going over things in her head. Matt (Brett Goldstein) – an old friend of Oliver’s – then appears with flowers, saying he’s here for her. He confesses that he disappeared to London to get away from her and Oliver as a couple, but now admits that he wants to be with her. He reads her a self-penned poem, full of blunt, sexual thoughts, which ends up working on Gillian. She kisses him and leaps into his arms. They run to the bedroom, and start having sex. Oliver walks in and finds them, starting a big argument. Previously friends, now Matt and Oliver bicker, with Matt saying, “you need someone your own size; she’s my right fit”. After Matt leaves, Gillian and Oliver argue more. Gillian believes Oliver is in love with Rachel and blames that for swiftly bedding Matt. Gillian tells him to leave, when Oliver corrects her, telling her to leave his mother’s house.
Gillian begins to spend more time with Matt, though it’s not all perfect between them. It’s certainly more of a sexual relationship, and even then Gillian has to be somewhat instructive. She also tries to recreate a special moment she had with Oliver with Matt, failing miserably with his overly masculine, and quite adolescent, impulses.
In prepping for the Festival, Oliver, Gillian and Matt find themselves all there one afternoon, with bickering and peacocking aplenty; Matt has a crudely drawn graph, which denotes levels of success between him and his friends, and Matt is winning over Oliver thanks to this relationship.
Later on, talking with Rachel, Oliver asks Rachel to help him win back Gillian, and put an end to Matt’s part in all of this. If she could distract/seduce him, that’s all he needs. At a BBQ, this plan comes into place, with Rachel managing to allure Matt. Oliver has his private moment with Gillian, but she still doesn’t want to try things again, and leaves the get together, now discarded by Matt, newly fascinated with Rachel.
The day of the festival, Gillian and Jeffrey are lost without Oliver who, in hope of getting Gillian some success, has travelled to Cardiff with Rachel to get Gerry along for the show. The pair manages to convince Gerry and bring her back in time, as a gathering crowd sit down to watch Gillian’s play. Gillian spots Oliver sitting with Gerry, smiling at the thoughtfulness of his actions.
The play begins, and entertains the small crowd. As it reaches its climax, Gillian is overcome with emotion and runs out. Oliver follows, meeting her at the beach and sits with her. In the picturesque spot, after a tumultuous few weeks, both lean into one another telling the other how much they love them.