It took me a while to analyse my impressions about the Irish series “Normal People”, based on the book of the same name by Irish writer Sally Rooney – who also scripted the series alongside Alice Birch and Mark O’ Rowe. Today I’ve decided to do my review of this new international phenomenon. Here I go! Produced in partnership with Hulu Films, BBC and RTÉ, the series is directed by Lenny Abrahamson, who sets the tone for the first six episodes and Hettie McDonald who directed the last six episodes. The script brings a story full of passion between two highly fragile and complex characters that we have the opportunity to see grow and mature on the screen, going through situations in which we will all identify, to a greater or lesser degree, at some point in the series.
The series begins with the lives of two teenage secondary school students in Sligo, on Ireland’s Atlantic coast. Marianne Sheridan is an intelligent young woman, fearless, but reserved, complicated, who does not fit the standard of the other students of the school, who see her as a stranger. Meanwhile, Connell Waldron is a popular boy from the school, charming, coveted by the girls, admired by the boys, athlete of of the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) team, but inside, he is shy, reserved and stuck in his complexities and insecurities.
Connell’s mother, Lorraine, works as a cleaner at Marianne’s family home. Connell and Lorraine live very modest lives. She is a single mother and has a loving and caring relationship with her son. Meanwhile, Marianne was born into a family with a good financial situation but conflicted and cold. Her mother Denise is disdainful and apathetic. Allan, her brother, is resenting and has a toxic and violent relationship with her. To make matters worse, Marianne’s father, who no longer lives with his family and nobody talks about, was an alcoholic and violent man who committed domestic abuse with Denise. Marianne grew up in this environment without affection and feels guilty for the family’s unhappiness.
The lives of the two young people connect when the two realise that even though they come from different worlds, the two have a lot in common, such as the fact that they do not fit into the world. From this moment, they begin to live a hidden romance, discovering love and sex.
Marianne suffers a great disappointment with Connell not inviting her to the prom dance at school. With a rejection complex, that is the last straw to trigger a narrative conflict that changes the course of the characters forever.
The characters are built in a very realistic and credible way, with very deep, complex and layered characters, which is rare to see in series that deal with youth. The actor’s Paul Mescal (Connell) and Dayse Edgar-Jones (Marianne) show a great harmony from the beginning, they defend with tooth and nail, with honesty and subtlety all the nuances of these complex characters, showing themselves to be human flesh and blood.
Time passes, Marianne and Connell move to Dublin, begin studying at Trinity College, a famous Irish teaching institution and they meet again. In Dublin, Marianne shows that she has adapted to her new life, and found people who share the same philosophy of life as her. She becomes popular, with credibility and an excellent student of the institution. On the other side of the story, we noticed a Connell outside his comfort zone, feeling “a stranger in the nest”, in that city that seems so big, living with people different from him, pretentious and pedantic. It is with Marianne that he finds his safety and comfort. She makes him feel connected with his past.
From this moment on, the lives of the two protagonists go through many comings and goings, meetings and disagreements. They love each other, do well, complete each other, but they themselves represent the main obstacle and conflict to live the relationship, whether due to the lack of communication, the vulnerability and discomfort of the human being in dealing with emotions, lack of attitude,. These characteristics that mark the whole journey of the couple. For those who watch the series, there is the feeling that why the hell Marianne and Connell are not going to live this beautiful love since there is no external element that opposes the relationship? Not even their new affairs are parallel obstacles. They are the executioners and villains of themselves.
Other elements of contemporary life are brought into the narrative as the death which is clearly evident through Connell’s grieving paths, revealing an important emotional trigger for addressing the themes that make “Normal People” so devastating and real. Depression, social anxiety, toxic and abusive relationships, domestic violence, false friends, the weight of insecurities, financial difficulties, the importance of psychotherapy and having friends as a support network are all situations in this modern times in Ireland or anywhere.
This series would not have the same result if the characters were not Irish and all this represents in terms of social and cultural background (the short speeches, moments of silence, the ways of expressing themselves reserved, the contained and discreet gestures and manners) and if the scenery were not for the ancient, magic, grey, wet and cold emerald island.
This is certainly the best Irish series of all time and it lives up to the success it has achieved around the world. It shows us in a sensitive, realistic, honest and painful way, the complexities and mysteries that surround the psyche of us human beings. It is a good exercise to “normalise” our essence as a person, as we are all the results of how we handle our conflicts.
Check out the oficial trailer here:
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