There were a few TV phenomena in the first lockdown of 2020, and this is the least ridiculous of them all – we’re looking at you, Joe Exotic. But that’s not to say that Normal People was received in a normal way, after all we’d been shut inside for a few weeks already at that point. So maybe that explains why #connellschain trended on Twitter for a week, and people started pining for adolescent style relationships where communication is non-existent, and heartbreak is part of the package?
Voice of millennials Sally Rooney wowed readers with her 2018 novel, which tells the story of rich misfit Marianne and working class cool kid Connell. We journey through their complex romance, starting with a secret first kiss and moving through hidden relationships, heart-breaking breakups and lots and lots of shagging, as the pair struggle to find themselves and settle into adulthood. Naturally, they’re both totally tortured – Connell from his desire to step away from the lad culture his pals personify, Marianne by her abusive brother and useless mother. And so the whole series is one big exploration of internal turmoil and anguish.
But it deals with all this torment with remarkable emotional intelligence – Connell’s struggles with emotional maturity and self-confidence are sensitively portrayed, whilst Marianne’s intelligence is displayed alongside the cynicism left by her traumatic family life. And amongst all this, there’s the backdrop of class comparisons, as Marianne cruises through life whilst Connell clings to every opportunity given.
We admit, this might be a bit wet for some of our readers, but for fans of the novel and those who like their telly to come with some emotional torture, this will be right up your street. Plus, my god is it gorgeous. And we don’t just mean Connell.
In The Guardian, Lucy Mangan thinks “the rendering of the on-again-off-again relationship between sixth-form and then university students Marianne and Connell for the small screen… is near-perfect.” And it’s no doubt helped by Mescal and Edgar Jones, who Alan Sepinwall in Rolling Stone says “are spectacular — apart, but especially together — at conveying the vulnerability and longing essential to making a love story like this work.” However, in the FT (paywall) Suzy Feay says that Normal People is “beautifully acted, atmospheric and sharply detailed” but warns that “six whole hours, though, feels like a stretch.”
Whatever you thought of the book, or indeed even if you’ve never even heard of it, we rate Normal People as a Must – and at 30 minute episodes, you have little to lose in testing it out.
First shown April 2020. Watch the trailer here.
Normal People first shown April 2020. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.