Normal People

I've been writing this week about the lockdown TV that I have been enjoying – see notes on Derry Girls, Unorthodox and The Good Place. I'm still in the second series of Secret Army, but earlier in the week I finished Normal People, a twelve-part series based on the book by Sally Rooney which I really enjoyed earlier this year.

This is one of those exceptionally rare cases where the screen adaptation actually improves on the book. The director, Hetty MacDonald, also directed the single best episode of New Who, Blink. The book is told through Sally Rooney's own intense yet slightly detached voice, all in tight-third present tense. The TV series takes different perspectives, the characters as they see each other and as they might appear to us. It adds depth and richness to how we experience the story.

Of course, it is carried by Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones as the protagonists Connell and Marianne. Neither overshadows the other; both have painful journeys to make. At school in Sligo, Connell is the popular one, Marienne is the loner, but they have a secret affair and then both get into Trinity College Dublin where Marianne becomes the popular one and Connell is left struggling. (There is a minority view that his real problem in Dublin is not playing enough GAA.) They observe each other's love lives and then eventually resolve their own relationship. It warmed my heart (though there are some pretty bleak moments along the way).

We get perhaps a little more into Connell's head, but we see Marianne's soul as well. It's a love story, of course, but set in a place and time that I know well enough for it to really grab me. Thanks to gownegirl on tumblr for these GIFs.

“She closes her eyes. He probably won’t come back, she thinks. Or he will, differently. What they have now they can never have back again. But for her the pain of loneliness will be nothing to the pain that she used to feel, of being unworthy. He brought her goodness like a gift and now it belongs to her. Meanwhile his life opens out before him in all directions at once. They’ve done a lot of good for each other. Really, she thinks, really. People can really change one another. You should go, she says. I’ll always be here. You know that.”


Anyway, another one that was well worth watching, and only twelve 25-minute episodes. What have you got to lose?

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