Normal People - Review
Image Credit: Element Pictures
A brilliant, beautiful Bildungsroman that candidly explores the tribulations of adolescent love.
Adapted from the acclaimed Sally Rooney novel, this adaptation arguably tops even the book – a rare feat indeed. Rooney herself was involved in the process of reworking her novel for the small screen, her valuable insight is clear for all to see in the screenplay.
The show follows the protagonist’s journey from classmates in Sligo to scholars at Trinity College; exploring issues of class, love and mental health along the way. Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell’s (Paul Mescal) relationship thrives because in their hearts, they are both thoroughly good people – but who both get it wrong occasionally.
In school Connell is popular and highly sought after, and Marianne a shunned recluse; roles that are somewhat reversed as the pair transition to university. Connell comes from a modest background, his mother working as a housekeeper in Marianne’s mansion. Their commonality lies in their intelligence.
Marianne and Connell are psychologically complex. Some of the toughest moments invite deep introspection from the viewer. Connell breaks down whilst struggling to deal with the loss of a close friend to suicide, Marianne feels unlovable and she becomes engaged in an abusive relationship – ultimately, they help one-another through these toughest of times. It is admirable how they are able to continue to care for one another so deeply even when they are seeing other people. They stay together even when they are not together.
It is abundantly clear to the viewer that the protagonists are never truly happy apart from when they are with one-another. The line ‘it’s not like this with anyone else’ we frequently hear in the most intimate of moments is a sentiment that extends way beyond the bedroom – it refers to life in its totality. No one ‘gets’ them like they get each other. Over the 12 episodes we see the pair grow up and mature, all the while developing a symbiotic relationship stemming out of the teenage experiences they have shared together.
When episode 12 drew to a close at 4am this morning after a hard night of binge-watching, a period of reflection and digestion was needed. There is so much to be gleaned from the relationship of these two star-crossed lovers in fair Sligo. There are many elements of teenage-angst that are easy to empathise with, the show forces the viewer into much-needed contemplation of issues that affect us all. Normal People is a must-watch masterpiece.