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NORMAL PEOPLE gets 10/10 Is this the small screen’s best show this year?


Directed by Lenny Abrahamson & Hettie Macdonald
Starring Daisy Edgar-Jones, Paul Mescal 

10/10

Based on the New York Times Best Seller by Sally Rooney, Normal People is a story that resonates so deeply that it would have been remiss to not to have brought it forth to the small screen.

Arguably one of the best adaptions this century, Normal People is inexplicably touching all who come across it, commanding our attention and weaving its way throughout our collective emotions. Gripping and consistently heartbreaking; it’s all in the subtleties. It’s impossible not to be equally charmed and seduced by the Irish countryside, the story spending time in Sligo, Dublin and even stepping out to Sweden for a year; though it moves so seamlessly across time and with bite size, half hour episodes that there is never a moment’s drag nor a moment that feels rushed, every second delicately crafted.

Normal People is painfully compelling from the moment we meet both Connell (Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) in their final year of high school. Marianne, a highly intelligent outcast with cutting wit and quivering vulnerabilities, and Connell, a super-smart football player whose even-tempered disposition and enticing quietness stands comfortably with his popular friends. The fact that they’re both introverts only adds to the allure, with as much happening here in what’s not said as what is.

A discrepancy in class sees Connell’s mother, Lorraine (Sarah Greene) as a cleaner for Marianne’s mansion-like home, leaving the pair to share pleasantries weighted with their undeniable pull towards one another. What could so easily become a generic, overdone and frankly derivative take on ‘boy meets girl (and is consistently problematic)’ instead both subverts and demonstrates the story we should have been subject to all along. It’s in the equality of their partnership, their intellectual connectedness and the spectrum of emotion that we see Mescal display as Connell journeys deeply through love, despair, anxiety and depression, the show not once shying away from the ugliness and the beauty of his emotion.

Every piece of dialogue is layered with the depth of their experiences. One look to see an empty chair in a classroom where Marianne should be, but isn’t, is enough to have eyes welling, pleading inwardly for her to come back because just like the characters we follow, we know, somehow, that these two people are supposed to be together. And when they aren’t, we feel the absence of their love as if it is our own. Intensely emotive, intimate (and occasionally explicit) scenes thread throughout the 12 episodes, letting us delve deep into the private instances shared between Marianne and Connell, and letting us feel alongside them as to why it’s so different when they’re together compared with any of their other lovers.

Normal People is a stunning adaption, worthy of all praise it’s receiving. Marianne and Connell are more than just likeable, they represent so many facets of our own reality. Their relationship is both timeless and timely in its execution; a story we all long to see, and a story we all need to see.

CAITLIN NORRIS

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