Conversations with Friends: bring on the dysfunctional relationships

Alison Oliver in Conversations with Friends

Conversations with Friends is a slow moving Irish tale based on a novel by Sally Rooney, who authored the very popular Normal People from a couple of seasons ago. Once again we have people desperate for love, but unable to create functional loving relationships because they are pretty dang messed up as human beings.

Alison Oliver and Sasha Lane in Conversations with Friends

Conversations with Friends centers around 4 people. The main character is Frances (Alison Oliver). Frances and her ex-girlfriend Bobbi (Sasha Lane) are both university students in Dublin. They are still friends, but no longer lovers. They perform spoken word poetry together. Frances is a wanna be writer.

Jemima Kirke and Sasha Lane in Conversations with Friends

The successful writer Melissa (Jemima Kirke) hears their spoken word performance one night and strikes up a conversation with them. She invites them to a party at her house. Bobbi is busy flirting with Melissa and hardly notices what Frances is doing.

Alison Oliver and Joe Alwyn in Conversations with Friends

Frances is upstairs meeting Nick (Joe Alwyn), Melissa’s husband. She wants to jump in bed with him almost before she learns his name.

With that set-up the story gets underway. In 12 episodes there is plenty of time for sexual liaisons, several kinds of human failings, and a number of plot twists. The story is complicated by the fact that Frances and Nick are both terrible communicators. They can never get out what they need to say at the right time. I certainly recognize the problem, because I was a very shy person who could never say what I wanted out loud. Like Frances, I turned to writing to express myself. Nick became an actor so he could speak other people’s words.

Another moment of recognition for me with Frances was her health issue with severe menstrual pain. I knew several episodes before Frances got the word from her doctors that she had endometriosis.

Hopefully, I don’t resemble Frances in her ability to hurt the people who cared about her. She was a master at it. She did something in the last 30 seconds of the series that made me want to yell at her for an hour about what an thoughtless and unkind person she was.

I thought the series was slow and too long. I was ready for it to be over by episode 8, but it went on for 12. I didn’t like Frances very much and I thought Nick was a dud of a Ken doll. Bobbi, on the other hand, was brash and interesting and full of spirit. We didn’t get to see enough of Melissa, but Jemima Kirke made what moments she had on the screen powerful ones.

I think the viewers who get caught up in relationships and root for Frances and Nick or Frances and Bobbi will enjoy the love story plotlines. There are plenty of intimate and well-filmed sex scenes, too.

There were other characters, of course. Parents, friends, editors, other students. Frances and Bobbi went to Croatia with Melissa and Nick for a holiday. That was a scenic part of the story.

There were endless text messages and emails that weren’t popped out to make them readable. Showing an entire phone with a tiny line of text to read or an entire computer screen with a two sentence email to read is really an accessibility nightmare.

Lenny Abrahamson and Leanne Welham directed the series.

You can see the entire season of Conversations with Friends on Hulu now. Thank you, Hulu, for releasing the entire season on the same day. I appreciate any streamer that does that.

Have you seen this series? What did you think of it?

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