For everyone TV review: Normal People

  • By Rachel Power
  • This article was published more than 4 years ago.
  • 29 May 2020
Paul Mescal as Connell and Daisy Edgar-Jones as Marianne in the TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People (Photo: Supplied)

★★★★★

Marianne and Connell couldn’t appear more different. Both are smart, but while he’s a sporty all-rounder, she’s a loner – aloof and abrasive.

At high school they’re not friends, but Connell’s mother is housekeeper at Marianne’s extravagant family home, where Marianne is subject to her brother’s constant cruelty. Both contain hidden depths and a profound connection develops, though they conduct their affair in secret, mainly to protect Connell from the derision of his peers.

At university in Dublin, their positions flip – Marianne finds popularity, while Connell struggles to fit in. For a brief ‘perfect’ time they’re together, but their surface differences (her wealth, his pride) cause a breakdown in communication and each becomes lost – she to damaging relationships, he to depression following a schoolmate’s suicide.

Despite all they mean to each other, can their bond survive?

Told in 12 half-hour episodes, the casting is faultless in this retelling of Sally Rooney’s hit novel. Daisy Edgar Jones captures Marianne’s troubled fragility; Paul Mescal perfectly embodies Connell’s vulnerability as a young man struggling to articulate his feelings.

There has been a lot of talk about the show’s unapologetic depiction of sex and consent. Connell’s genuine concern for Marianne’s wellbeing, and the stated trust between them, in no way makes their interactions sanitised or clinical but only adds to their intimacy and the reverence they feel for one another, making this ideal viewing for a teen audience.

In taking them from the page to the screen, Rooney’s characters truly break your heart.

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