Review: Normal People

Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal in Normal People

Normal People is an Irish series streaming on Hulu. It tells the story of two people who love each other but are unable to make it fully work.

Normal People features Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal as the two lovers. They lead in every scene. The series isn’t only the two of them – there are family and friends about – but they are the only two that matter.

Both Edgar-Jones and Mescal give extraordinary performances. This series is dark and depressing; I hope the two of them had ways to disconnect from the material at the end of each day.

Daisy Edgar-Jones in Normal People

Edgar-Jones plays Marianne. She’s an outcast at school. She’s smarter than everyone and keeps people away with cold snark. Her family is wealthy and bitterly dysfunctional. She struggles with self-worth and feeling unlovable through the entire season.

The story begins in Sligo, Ireland, when Marianne is about 18. It extends through several years of college life in Dublin until the two protagonists are about 24.

Paul Mescal in Normal People

Mescal plays Connell. He’s popular but shy about how smart he is. When he begins a relationship with Marianne, they keep it secret from his school friends.

He doesn’t acknowledge her or defend her from the taunting of his friends. Their early relationship ends in heartache.

The two of them go on to Trinity College. There Marianne has friends and none of the stigma that followed her in her home town. Each develops relationships with others, but they keep coming back together.

No matter what they were doing, where they were, or who they were with, the thing they really cared about was each other. Several painful experiences haunted them, but need kept reuniting them.

The camera closed in on them in many scenes. Sensuous, intimate moments would fill the frame with a kiss or a hand or the chain around Connell’s neck. As Marianne commented several times, being with Connell was unlike being with anyone else. The camera made it so, with intimate heat and vulnerability. Even with other people around, their gaze was only for each other.

In my emotional reaction to the series, I wanted to understand why each of them acted the way they did. I couldn’t find the answer. They were self-destructive in ways that kept me wondering.

I wanted them to live together, to help heal each other with their love. At the end of the season they almost got there, but backed away again. I credit that last decision to the possible arrival of a second season.

The relationship between them and others they were with required the services of Intimacy Coordinator Ita O’Brien, who explained how those intimate scenes were handled.

The series was written by Alice Birch based on a novel by Sally Rooney. Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald shared the directing equally for the 12 episodes. (Episodes were only 30 minutes.)

Overall the series was slow and sad but compelling.

Here’s a lovely poster for Pinterest.

Have a look at the trailer.

Have you seen Normal People? What was your opinion of it?

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Author: Virginia DeBolt

After many years as an educator and writer, Virginia finally retired from working life. She's always loved a good movie or TV show and wants to use her free time to talk about them with you now. She's Old Ain't Dead!

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