Miles Elliot is a mess. A forty-something year old with tired eyes and a grey, muted wardrobe that reflects his gloomy attitude. Getting up in the morning is a daily struggle. He groans and moans through his daily routine; unable to find energy or positivity in any aspect of his life. He works at a job where no one likes him and to make matters worse; he’s probably on the chopping block. There’s no doubt that Miles and his wife, Kate, love each other but the pressure to start a family is an insurmountable Mt. Everest in his life. Miles can’t bear to face life’s struggles much longer and needs a reprieve from getting kicked while he’s down.
On the other hand, Miles Elliot is in the prime of his life. His youthful exuberance and kind eyes betray the number printed on his birth certificate. He loves dressing in deep, vibrant colors; a reflection of his interesting personality. Work can’t be better. His marketing pitches have captured the interest of his superiors and a promotion is finally in order. Miles is completely enamored with his wife Kate and the prospect of starting a family is at the forefront of their minds. Life has been throwing lemons; Miles is making lemonade.
Confused? Let me clear things up. In Living With Yourself, Paul Rudd plays Miles Elliot; the one detailed in the first paragraph. At the recommendation of a friend, Miles goes to a spa that promises him a new outlook on life. This miraculous treatment works! But it comes at a cost; a botched procedure results in Miles waking up buried in the middle of a forest. He makes his way home to find a man in his house, lying down next to his wife, a New Miles (the one detailed in paragraph two). The “spa treatment” is a cloning facility and Miles was accidentally kept alive. Old Miles was never “treated”. Instead, a clone of Miles was made; one with perfect physical health and a genetically enhanced brain chemistry. Living With Yourself follows the adventures and misadventures of the two men (one man?) as they attempt to figure out this impossible situation.
Living With Yourself is quirky and fun with plenty of emotion. Paul Rudd and Aisling Bea (who plays Kate) are incredible in their roles. The show uses cool character perspective tricks to make every episode feel fresh and the music helps a 27 minute episodes feel like hour long dramadies (in the best way possible). The show’s ability to move seamlessly from humorous absurdity to emotional turmoil is reminiscent of Bojack Horseman, while it’s use of fantastical elements to tell a unique story has shades of Russian Doll; two standout Netflix originals shows. There is plenty of praise to heap onto Living With Yourself but I think that the show’s greatest achievement is how it portrays and understands mental health.
It’s easy to see that Paul Rudd’s character, Miles, is suffering through an extended bout of depression. He is unmotivated, constantly tired, and has lost his drive on work and hobbies alike. There’s a certain level of catharsis in watching the symptoms of depression play out on screen. It’s a little reminder that someone out there knows exactly what you’re going through. More importantly, Living With Yourself tells the audience that depression does not define Miles. In later episodes Old Miles learns to look at things differently and puts effort into his everyday life. New Miles, the clone, gets a dose of reality when he finds out that a positive and healthy body doesn’t always equal happiness. Miles (both old and new) goes through a range of emotion reflective of the ups and downs of everyday life. Miles Elliot learns that his struggles with mental health are a valid and normal life experience.
The show gives Old Miles the therapeutic experience of physically seeing himself on a good day. At first, watching his clone go about town frustrated MIles. Eventually, he remembers that he shares all the good qualities that makes New Miles so well received. Miles Elliot is charming and crafty, he loves his wife, and is good at his job. Having depression may have made Old Miles forget all this but it never made it untrue. Miles went a long way in getting help for his depression; instead of shady, expensive spa treatments maybe we all just consider therapy?
I saw myself in Miles Elliot. I saw the unfinished scripts sitting on a computer drive. I recognize the early morning groans at the sound of a daily alarm. I feel the weight of anxiety and exhaustion on Miles’ shoulders that kept him from being himself. In a different way, I also saw a lot of myself in New Miles. I saw the joy on his face when looking at his partner. I recognize the excitement he finds in little things; like the color of his shirt or the wind blowing in his face. I feel the energy he displayed when he pitches a great meeting or impresses a coworker. In Living With Yourself, I saw that I can have good days and bad days; and that my depression does not invalidate all my good qualities. The show helped me remember that, like Miles, I am not defined by my depression.