Fifteen Love takes a glossy look at inappropriate relationships in the world of professional tennis
“The key to the overhead smash is preparation”
Written and created by Hania Elkington, Fifteen Love was released last summer on Amazon Prime Video (although after Wimbledon, which seems like a missed opportunity). Set in the world of professional tennis, once the drama shows its hands it is revealed as a #MeToo era thriller, although I’m not 100% sure how successfully it adds to that discourse, given the way it all plays out.
Ella Lily Hyland plays Justine Pearce, a teenage prodigy whose dream run to her first Grand Slam semifinal goes catastrophically wrong with a career-ending wrist injury. Five years later, she’s now a physiotherapist working at her old tennis academy but when news breaks of her ex-coach, Aidan Turner’s Glenn Lapthorne, winning the French Open with his latest protégé, a world of complex emotions explodes her as she accuses him of sexual assault.
A prologue suggests that she was crushing hard on him at the time and in the present day, it is clear that the end of her dreams has had a significant emotional toll. She’s full of jealousy, rage and frustration and so when she makes her accusations, friends and family are more than a little sceptical as the world closes ranks around Glenn (Anna Chancellor’s academy head particularly strong here) but when his attention falls on a new young US teenager, the pendulum inevitably tips the other way.
It feels right that there’s a murky complexity, initially at least, as there’s rarely anything clear cut in cases such as these, but I had real issues with the way in which Justine goes about certain things, particularly where the new younger player is concerned with some seriously questionable behaviour of her own which never feels adequately called out. Likewise, her upward trajectory of becoming coach to her best pal feels a touch too easy, a dramatic device rather than a genuine plot progression.
Still, there’s power to the way in which the old boy’s club is portrayed – Elliot Cowan’s fellow coach full of sleaze, Ian Gelder’s academy head protecting his own – and the guilt showed by her friends, Tom Varey’s Steve a stand out there. But I feel the show could have gone a lot further in exploring and explicating the questionable actions of all concerned.