Love is a strange thing. We all think that we have an idea of what love is, but when it hits us, it is nothing like we thought it would be. It’s this complex emotion and it will change us.
The question is if it will change us in a positive or negative way.
Personally, I don’t believe in love, but I will watch the shit out of anything that has to do with love. Having read Sally Rooney’s Normal People, I knew that the book had torn me apart. But as with most book to screen adaptations, I wasn’t expecting much from the adaptation.
What I learned? That would be that sometimes people get it right, and what we are left with is one of the most beautiful series that I have ever sat still for.
You don’t have to read the book to appreciate the adaptation. If you are a fan of coming of age adaptations, Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal), will set a new standard for what you expect. They will draw you in from the beginning, and they will keep you until the very end.
And even when it ends, you will be begging for more.
What you’ll find from the beginning is that there is a lot of intense sex. Connell and Marianne express their lust for each other, all while avoiding emotions. Except, where as you would expect that the sex is just a secondary part of the story, here sex is an expression of who they are, their characters, their idea of what it takes for them to believe in themselves.
And what it results in is 12 episodes that will make you fundamentally reevaluate the way you give and receive love, as well as the journey that you take in life, to not only be the person that you are, but the person that you are intended to be.
Have you ever stopped growing? Is there something more to the life that you have made, or are you where you are supposed to be? What are the things that are important to you? What are the things that you are doing that will shape you in the ways that you want, and the way that you are supposed to be?
I will be honest, I never expected to sit down and watch something and be hit with a bunch of questions about what relationships have changed me and/or helped me grow into the person I am.
Set in small town Ireland, Normal People, will make you think about the way that you grew up and the way that the people around you – from family to friends – shape you.
And the ones that you didn’t realize made parts of you come to life.
Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal) are two people from different walks of life. Marianne is a rich kid, awkward, angry, and lonely. Connell’s Mom is her housekeeper. Connell is popular, handsome, and the guy that every girl wants. The two are completely different, but what is a good story without a trope.
And this one finds these two from different sides of track drawn into each others lives with an instant attraction, sexual chemistry, and eventually seeing that their souls were meant to intertwine.
These two play a game of cat and mouse – finding their way to each other with the “will they, won’t they.” Marianne is the one that suggests that they keep their relationship a secret. I don’t think she does it for herself, but because she is so drawn to Connell that she is willing to make this sacrifice in order to be with him. She knows that she’s not popular, but has such a strong attraction to him that she’s willing to sacrifice her own heart.
Connell is worried about what everyone will think, and at first – you can’t help but hate him, as he agrees with her that they have to keep their relationship a secret from everyone. You want him to be a man that finds strength and conviction in his feelings and emotions, before you are quickly jolted back to the realization that he is a teenager and that he doesn’t know what that all means.
But their friends – okay, Connell’s, because Marianne has none – don’t care. They all know that they are together. But Connell – you can’t help but want to hate him for the way that he treats Marianne, and acts as though she’s not good enough for him because she’s not popular. She’s good enough to fuck, but not good enough to be seen with?
But the thing about Normal People is that when you think that you have these characters figured out – that you love or hate them – you will learn that the beauty of this is that these characters are consistently evolving. They learn from their shortcomings. They learn from their mistakes. They learn from their history.
And that is part of the strength of this coming of age story.
What starts as sex evolves into such a deep love. Connell and Marianne have a way of tolerating each other, but also being drawn to each other no matter what. They find themselves drawn to each other, but to the extent that they can, tolerating and respecting the relationships that they are in.
They each have the confidence and the personality traits that the other lacks or is desperately searching for within themselves. Connell has a kindness and shyness about him that keeps him from really saying what is on his mind. Marianne has an abrasiveness and a bluntness that makes her not give a fuck.
But this isn’t a story of just teenagers falling in love. It’s a story of how they navigate their lives and experience other relationships, while watching the person that they truly love navigate theirs. It’s the story of how time goes on, people change, people grow, but when you are meant to find your way back to each other, you will.
Time is the one thing that keeps moving forward. It’s a matter of how you move forward with that time. People change and evolve. It’s a matter of how, if you change and evolve, that keeps you together.
This is a story that time benefits and hurts. We watch them weave in and out of each others lives physically, but always remaining important to each other, even if they aren’t in the forefront of each others lives. It’s a story that benefits with the way life changes, and that shows two people so desperately in love that can give each other strength from a simple look, touch, or memory.
Bingeing the story is something that you will find yourself doing. Not because you necessarily mean to, but because it becomes so important to figure out the way that these two will find each other and be true to who they are. You find yourself needing to know that love prevails and then wondering, is this the way that love is meant to prevail.
Because Normal People is about the moments. The moments that you would think are inconsequential, a simple meal, bike ride, laughter, exchange, trip – all of these moments end up meaning everything.
These moments shape the people that they are. These moments have turned out to mean everything to the two of them.
They just haven’t been able to recognize the beauty of the moments until it’s all they have left.
Normal People is a special show that remains close and faithful to the book. Some may find the series to be corny, too mushy, and trying to hard. But if you take it all in and allow the series to touch your heart – it will change you. You find yourself rooting for Connell and Marianne no matter what the outcome, because you will allow yourself to feel emotionally for both of them.
Normal People is the complexity of friends, family, and love. Normal People is the complexity of navigating life.
Edgar-Jones and Mescal are perfection. The way that they shine together on the screen reminds you of what chemistry is. Their looks, glances, touches – just everything, even down to the sex – makes you feel like you are taking an intimate look into someone’s life. You forget that these are actors and believe that they have become these characters. You fall in love with both of them.
And before you know it, you are drawn in, and left thinking about your own coming of age story – the loves that you kept, the loves you let go of, and how every single one of them changed you.
Normal People is streaming on Hulu now.