Review: Normal People

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If you have a sweet tooth for teen romance then you’d better get Streaming because the new Normal People is a true masterpiece. Alongside the new release of Killing Eve series three, Normal People is the highest watched series ever to be released on the BBC. 

The series was adapted from the award-winning novel written by the immensely talented, Irish writer, Sally Rooney. Not only does this series delve into an intense and passionate relationship between the two young lovers, Marrianne and Connell, but it also beautifully encapsulates the supposedly “mundane” obstacles that adolescents battle with.

Our screens are first graced with the presence of Marianne Sheridon (Daisy Edgar Jones) and Connell Waldren (Paul Mescal) when Connell drives to the Sheridon’s mansion to pick his mother up, who works there as a cleaner. Connell is raised by his single mother Lorraine and Marriane lives in a mansion with her rather distant mother and her malicious brother. The difference in social class and upbringing between Connell and Marriane adds an intriguing element to the story. Connell, an undeniably handsome, sporty and self-aware student, perfectly fits the mould of the popular school kid. Whereas Marianne, a sharp-witted, sarcastic and defensive girl is mocked and rejected by the other pupils. Nevertheless, the social dynamics flip when they both move to Trinity College. Marianne fits in charmingly well with the other intellectual and affluent students who are the norm at Trinity College, whilst Connell finds the people at university somewhat pretentious and because of his class, he finds it difficult to connect with them. The difficulties of jumping from the familiar grounds of the school to the very unfamiliar grounds of university is something many young people will find themselves relating to when watching the series. 

Marianne and Connell’s endearing love story develops rather rapidly. Within 5 minutes of the second series, the viewer is already plunged into an intense and passionate sex scene between the two. Heavy breathing, erotic sex noises, and closes ups of sweaty bodies, nothing is left unexposed in the series. Yet there is something quite refreshing about the intimate scenes in “normal people”. Marianne’s “first time” is conveyed as slightly awkward and amusing for the viewer, as we see Connell clumsily trying to remove her bra. Unlike the stereotypical Hollywood sex scenes which are often overly galmourised, Normal People provides us with very relatable and authentic love scenes. The series depicts a sexual relationship that is fundamentally based on consent and trust. Connell is often seen showing concern for Marianne, making her feel comfortable and reassured. Like many other women, I found myself subconsciously drawn to Connell because of this trait. Connell has a  piece of the puzzle that many other men are missing – tenderness; he asks a woman for consent before he does something to them. This is the critical difference between Connell and the other men with whom Marianne has relationships. When Paul Mescal was interviewed in The Times Magazine about the sex scenes in Normal People he hoped they could “serve as a kind of counterweight to the warping influence of online porn, which so many people Mescal’s own age have had full access to while growing up”.

 However, our high regard for Connells tenderly love towards Marianne is somewhat crushed when his anxiety gets the better of him and he says to her “don’t tell anyone at school about this, ok?”. It is then made abundantly clear that Connell is ashamed to be associated with Marianne. This reminds us that these characters are not perfect, ideological teenagers but rather they are just ‘normal people’ who subsequently make fairly normal mistakes.

 As their lives move on after school they both have other relationships with people, yet they always seem to gravitate back to each other. Connell’s anxiety begins to worsen and he hits rock bottom when a devastating incident occurs. The series includes a heart-wrenching scene where Connell goes to see a psychiatrist and emotionally falls to pieces, in front of her. I found this particularly invigorating to see the male as the vulnerable victim of depression for a change, as this is unquestionably not showcased enough in film.

Fundamentally, what makes Marianne and Connell’s relationship so devastatingly beautiful, is that throughout all the troublesome times they go through, they manage to keep each other afloat. Marianne pulls Connell out from the depths of depression and Connell saves Marianne from drowning in despair. As a result, the pair are undeniably perfect together, but will their love endure?

All episodes of Normal People are available to watch now on BBC Player. Watch the trailer below:

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