Normal People: TV Review

Normal People

I don’t write TV reviews very often and that’s usually because I just can’t keep up with all the content and am always so far behind the vast majority of people. However, I’m making an exception with Normal People because I was so hooked I finished it within three days.

In summary, Normal People follows the relationship between Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal) from when they are acquaintances and secret lovers in school in Sligo, Ireland to their on-off relationship while at the same university in Dublin.

When the adaptation of Sally Rooney‘s novel was announced, I wasn’t confident that it would work because it is so focussed on the interior thoughts of the two leads and I didn’t know how that could be portrayed onscreen, but I shouldn’t have worried. The screenplay is extremely loyal to the book – Rooney has a co-writer credit on some episodes – and is absolutely brilliant at bringing the characters and their thoughts and feelings to life.

This is also helped by the casting of newcomers Edgar-Jones and Mescal. First of all, they looked exactly like I’d imagined Marianne and Connell when I read the book, which was really exciting, and secondly, their performances were astonishing. I was absolutely blown away by how raw and emotional they were. They have fantastic chemistry – I was fully convinced about their feelings for one another – and I cannot fault either of them. Mescal had less emotional heavy lifting to do in the beginning but he really levels up in the last couple of episodes. His portrayal of Connell’s mental health struggles and inability to articulate what he wants really made me emotional. Edgar-Jones was more inward and subtle and I was shocked to learn that wasn’t her actual accent – she does a very convincing Irish. I also want heap praise on Sarah Greene as Connell’s mum Lorraine – I never appreciated how cool she was when I read the book. She’s amazing!

Normal People

I was also thrilled that they didn’t dial down the novel’s sexual content. I certainly wasn’t expecting full-frontal nudity, but kudos to the team for being fully committed to accurately portraying sex onscreen. Those scenes felt so honest, realistic, and raw and they were sensitively directed by Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald (who directed six episodes each). Equally, I loved how the topic of men’s mental health was handled and I would have even liked it to have been explored a bit more. Mescal in that scene was phenomenal.

I’m not gonna lie, Marianne and Connell still frustrated the hell out of me and I wanted to bash their heads together and make them clearly and candidly communicate their feelings for the other person, but that’s how it was in the book so I can’t criticise the show for that. The conclusion is pretty frustrating too but at least here it’s ever so slightly more hopeful than the book. Some people have also complained that not much happens, and I see their point, but that didn’t matter to me.

I cannot fault Normal People. I devoured it in no time, which is so rare for me. It breaks the mould and is a rare book-to-TV adaptation that is actually better than the novel – I related to the characters more and had a much deeper emotional connection to it. If this show doesn’t scoop all the awards in acting, writing, and directing I will riot!

Normal People is currently airing every Monday on BBCOne. All episodes are available to download from BBC iPlayer in the U.K. and Hulu in the U.S. 

Comments

  1. Excellent. If anyone’s interested, I’ve reviewed the TV series here… https://chrishallamworldview.wordpress.com/2020/05/11/tv-review-normal-people/

    Like

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