Normal People is the country’s new lockdown binge of the month. Spanning twelve episodes, at less than half an hour each, BBC Three’s adaptation of Sally Rooney’s 2019 novel has proved to be a smash hit – gaining over 16 million hits on iPlayer already. 

What makes this unconventional romance so compelling, is the realism of the relationship between main characters Connell (Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar Jones). The two leads keep on reaching the make or break point of their relationship, never quite making it over the finish line before life, or more often than not their own misunderstandings of the other’s feelings,tears them apart. There is no classic rom-com moment where they finally get their happy ever after because when does this happen in reality, especially during your twenties?

This representation of life as a twenty-something is perfectly portrayed throughout the show. From the scenes set at Trinity College Dublin where the other students in Connell’s English seminar are all spouting intellectual comments despite not having read the set text, to the more serious discussion of male mental health and the struggle of fitting in to a new life away from home, Normal People manages to capture both the confusion and the beauty of this age bracket. It covers class divides, school bullying, navigating new and old relationships, finding and reinventing yourself again, loss, family and most importantly, love.

The naturality of the show is also presented through the sex scenes that have gained much critical attention. On set, there was an intimacy advisor to help make the cast members feel comfortable and to enhance the authenticity of the scenes, something that is incredibly clear when watching. But what Normal People also does so well is its focus on consent and safe sex. Connell is the guy you want to have sex with because he doesn’t make these discussions awkward, and this aspect of the scenes never feels forced or over-done. The audience feels as if they are there with Connell and Marianne, they feel the desire and  confusion as well as the tensions within their relationship that drives the plot.

Visually, the show is stunning, with Hettie MacDonald and Lenny Abrahamson’s direction encompassing the beauty and the bleakness of the show, immersing the audience in the lives of the characters and the desperation behind their relationship. The Irish setting adds to this blurred distinction between reality and fiction, with the contrast between the calm beach locations and the busy worlds of high school and university emphasising the different lives of the protagonists as they move from quiet County Sligo to the big city living of Dublin. Likewise, the music adds to the emotional side of the show with each episode having a different cover – from Love Will Tear Us Apart to Make You Feel My Love – that enhances the deepness you find yourself feeling whilst watching.  Normal People is a must watch for any twenty-something, but be warned, it will break your heart.

4 stars

Image Credit: TheMovieDB

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