I don’t think I’ve ever been more frustrated with, but at the same time related to on such a fundamental level, two characters in any book I’ve read or film I’ve seen yet. Marianne and Connell from Sally Rooney’s “Normal People” were so relatable to me. Those two characters are like so many Millinials and Gen Zers who struggle with communication, intimacy, relationships, bouts of depression and trying to figure out life on their own.
I finally got around to reading Rooney’s best-selling novel about a month ago and I throughly enjoyed it. So I was super excited when the trailer for Hulu’s adaptation series dropped. With us being stuck at home during these times, I was able to binge the series in about two days (there are 12 half hour episodes). It was a slow burn just like the book…there’s not a lot of action or inflection points…its more a character study of two people from differing backgrounds but who fundamentally are the only ones who truly understand each other. It the story of first love and how that first one tends to stay with you and leave an imprint on you for the rest of your life…whether good or bad.
“Normal People” is perfectly cast, for the most part, and all the characters come across as truly authentic. Daisy Edgar-Jones plays the rich outcast with a tragic backstory Marianne. While newcomer Paul Mescal shines as the not so rich, popular good looking yet sensitive jock Connell. Jones character is not supposed to be all that conventionally pretty and her character is supposed to grow into her looks and confidence once the roles reverse once they get to Uni, but hey, everything can’t be perfect lol. For a newbie, Mescal was so raw and sincere in his performance. You can see the emotion and confusion just beneath the surface with him. He brought a delicate sincerity to the role and series that usually don’t exist with most young adult male characters. The chemistry is palpable between those two.
Overall, the series was touching and stayed close to the novel. The characters were rich and complex and the acting only magnified that…even the periphery characters. The music choices also enhanced the story…this is something that I pay attention to a little more now (I recently did an interview over at AwardsCircuit with two really cool music supervisors so now I have much more appreciation for the music choices in a project). The whole thing just felt like peeking into the daily life of two “normal people” and although they went through trials and tribulations and messed up situations, we all do and the only difference is the way in which we handle them and respond. With some beautiful shots interspersed throughout.
If you’re looking for a lot of action and over-the-top drama…this won’t be for you. But if you’re looking for a relatable love story that also shines a light on mental health issues, dependency issues, consent issues and a lot of other timely topics, give “Normal People” a watch.
Currently streaming on Hulu.
**On a side note, Paul Mescal and the music supervisors for the series created Connell’s playlist over on Spotify. It’s a pretty good mix…great for a bike ride which is when I’ve been listening to it. I’m a fan of these type of character-music marketing partnerships.