Normal People (TV series)

I know I’ve gone on about Normal People a lot (here and here). I swear I’m not secretly Sally Rooney (I wish).

I just feel that the Hulu/BBC adaptation of Rooney’s novel deserves a mention because I loved it so much. The girls and I even had a Whats App thread about it, obsessively commentating on each episode as we absolutely rinsed it over a couple of days. For just a moment I pretended I was going to pace myself but I already knew, from the first few minutes, that that wasn’t going to happen – I did it in a day and a half, and I might have to go back and watch it all again to catch all the details a second time.

Normal People (2020)

Follows Marianne and Connell, from different backgrounds but the same small town in Ireland, as they weave in and out of each other’s romantic lives.

Starring: Daisy Edgar-JonesPaul Mescal

*Spoilers*

Marianne (Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Mescal) are perfectly cast, I can’t imagine anybody else playing them now. While reading the book I don’t know what I pictured. I think Marianne was exactly as we see her, while Connell wasn’t quite as beefy, maybe less attractive – more Jack O’Connell/Taron Egerton (not that I don’t fancy both of them).

Both actors nail their parts and bring such a realness to their characters that I love them even more than I did while I was reading them. The story, which spans years, isn’t saturated with a lot of action. While the characters evolve and live full lives, this is most definitely a study in human emotion, rather than a rip-roaring yarn. I love it for that but essentially, everything and nothing happens.

Marianne and Connell meet in school and hook up despite their very different backgrounds. Marianne comes from wealth and comfort, Connell from a single parent home. Marianne’s mother was a victim of domestic abuse which, following the passing of her father, has permeated everything, leaving her mother cold and unfeeling. She turns a blind eye to the increasingly hostile behaviour of Marianne’s brother towards her daughter. Meanwhile, Connell’s young cool mum is loving and fully involved in her son’s life.

When the two start sleeping together however, it’s more the difference in their social standing at school that causes friction. Connell is hugely popular and part of the football team – Marianne has no friends whatsoever. So the relationship is destined to continue in secret and falls to its knees when Connell choose his reputation over his true feelings.

At Trinity College a short time later, the friends meet again and things have shifted dramatically. This time our girl is the popular one, enjoying the social aspect of university with her BFFs, Peggy (India Mullen) and Joanna (Eliot Salt) – and her new boyfriend. Connell this time, is the isolated one, struggling to find his place in the grand scheme of things. When they reunite at a party, things gradually start to heat up again.

It’s not long before the besties start sleeping together again but through a series of miscommunications and failure to say what they fucking mean – things flip flop from on to off again. And so it goes across the years, through new relationships and life experiences. There’s no doubt that they love each other but can they ever get it together and do it properly once and for all?

Well. I dare you to watch this and not cry your bloody bucket out. I felt every single jab of heartache and pain – and I think it’s around episode ten or eleven that I really started to lose it. This is a love story of course but it’s also about finding your place in the world and of choosing yourself.

Marianne deals with the trauma of her family life in increasingly dark and isolating ways, while Connell has his own cross to bear, following the suicide of a close friend. It’s real life but presented in such a gorgeously photogenic way, with the perfect soundtrack and dialogue that is has hardly been changed from the page itself.

It is incredibly frustrating in parts – like – say what you mean people! But did we all have the words we needed when we were young? Did we know just what to say to stop the ones we loved from leaving? I didn’t, sometimes I wonder if I do now.

So I recommend this wholeheartedly. It’s beautiful and effecting, I can’t take my eyes of Daisy, who give me major Anne Hathaway vibes. Her wardrobe is absolutely breathtaking and she does doe-eyed waif well. The sex scenes it might be worth adding are really hot which doesn’t hurt the enjoyment factor. Since the relationship, at least to begin with, is based purely on shagging, there’s a lot of sex.

The shows captures those heady highs of being a hormonal teenager well but this is definitely a) more sexy and b) more advanced that my own experiences at the same age. Not many hot boys wanted a chubby ginger with an eye patch and a bad attitude, surprisingly.

I love the way the show ends – which is slightly different to the book – I think it suits Marianna very well and leaves it open for more if we want it. I don’t know if there are plans to follow this up and it’s perfect as it is but I wouldn’t be against meeting these characters again in a few years to see how they’ve fared.

Anyway, enough gushing. Check it out if you like well-made TV, attractive young actors and literary brilliance.

What are you watching?

Weekly Digest #2

Some of the things I’ve been digging in quarantine.

The Normal People adaptation

I loved the book which I finished just in time for the live-action version. It’s wonderful so far with Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal) perfectly cast. It’s just very emotional, has completely nailed the tone of the book and it looks gorgeous.

It’s both trippy and satisfying to see it come to life on the screen and for it to be so close to how I imagined it. I had planned to pace myself but am already half way through the 12 part series. I can’t seem to stop watching it.

I absolutely recommend both formats of the story and hope you love it as much I as do.

Vivarium

A young couple looking for the perfect home find themselves trapped in a mysterious labyrinth-like neighborhood of identical houses.

Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) find themselves living a life they never wanted when they visit the housing development Yonder, an apparently sought-after neighbourhood for young home buyers.

I won’t say too much but this is a very eery, oddball sci-fi parable that wouldn’t be out of place in the Black Mirror series. I didn’t really see where it was going and although the ending is bleak AF, it was interesting to see it unravel. Poots is particularly good as Gemma, a woman saddled with the role of mother to a very strange little boy indeed.

After Life, Season 2

I was loathe to include this because I am not exactly a Ricky Gervais fan but honestly, I can’t stand by the notion of not being embarrassed about the things we like if I don’t include it. I love this show, rinsed it in a day and cried through every single episode, without fail.

The premise of the first series was Tony (Gervais) struggling with suicidal thoughts and anger following the passing of his wife Lisa (Kerry Godliman) to cancer. Season 2 picks up with Tony still grieving but learning to find meaning in his life again, which is easily done really when you look around.

Tony relives memories from his life with Lisa via home videos and it kills me every time. Much as I hate to say it, RG is a talented writer and when he’s good, he’s very very good. Support from Mandeep Dhillon, Penelope Wilton and Roisin Conaty doesn’t hurt – and honestly, massive points for the (mostly) sex-positive representation of Roxy’s chosen profession (sex worker).

I can’t pretend I love all of it, I hate Paul Kaye‘s therapist (I get I’m supposed to) and I could definitely do without the fat jokes. Call it a problematic fave, if you will. I hope there’s another season.

Writing Letters

I’ve been enjoying writing letters since we went into lock-down. There’s just something so satisfying about slipping pretty envelopes into the postbox addressed to friends in your best handwriting. It’s also really lovely to receive things in the post. It reminds me of a simpler time.

What are you digging?

Normal People

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years.

This book has sat on my shelf for six months but the story has recently been adapted into a Hulu series, which I’ll admit prompted me to finally pick it up.

I knew I’d like it based on Rooney’s last book, Conversations with Friends but this is next level in my opinion. It’s so beautifully written than I can’t stop thinking of it and I would give anything to be the writer Rooney is.

The story spans the years as Connell and Marianne share an orbit, despite their very different backgrounds. It’s a love story but also examines the topic of class and privilege. I couldn’t love it more.

I love how flawed the characters are – how the power flips flops between them and how Marianne’s path leads her into the darkness, in a direction very different to Connell’s, who’s future throws him his own curve balls. It’s very human and heartfelt.

It may be a world a way from my own experiences but I felt it all, profoundly. I think this is a book for the ages, a modern classic and I can’t wait to start the show just to see how the central protagonists’ have been cast*.

5/5

What are you reading?

*I’m pretending I’m not already three episodes down… the adaptation is available in full on BBC iPlayer.