Normal People — A portrait of real relationships
Released by the streaming service Hulu, Normal People is a 30 minutes TV show about being a young adult, and for the first time, a series gets the credit of being realistic and not boring.
Following the characters Connell (Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones), Normal People aims to build a real love story, as complicated as it is in real life. The show succeeds because it follows a very simple premise: normal people don’t have such a fanciful story, especially when it is about being in love.
The first three episodes set up the background of the protagonists: Connell is this handsome and popular guy who is keen on words and literature. Not a talkative guy, he cares too much about what people think about him, and many times this only shows that he can be a prick. His family resumes to his mother, a cleaner who works for Marianne’s family.
Marianne is a rebellious and introverted girl. She doesn’t care about what the teachers think about her, neither the colleagues. She just wants to be heard and loved, which is a struggle because of her family, once her mother is condescending and her brother has an abusive personality.
They start to get romantically involved and in a certain way, they fulfill each other. Marianne sees in him a person that sees her, that is willing to give her some attention, and that’s all she wants. In turn, Connell aims to find someone that has more depth than his high school mates. Marianne is that person. But she is also considered the ugly girl (which doesn’t make any sense, once the actress is gorgeous). He keeps her as a secret because he is ashamed of her. Yeah, you get the point. It is a toxic relationship. But it is very real.
The other episodes follow the ins and outs of the relationship and how Connell and Marianne grow and become these young adults that struggle with money, university, career, friendships, and everything else that you might identify if you are in your early 20s.
The series deals with serious issues: anxiety, depression. But I quite like how they built a plot about how traumas can be developed and appear peculiarly. The characters discover some “tastes” that they don’t realize are consequences of the inner pain.
Relationships are never a fairy tale. Never. The endings and coming backs of the main couple get into this point. They are not soul mates, they aren’t meant for each other. They just love one another, and that means nothing else, especially when you are so young and have so much of the world and yourself to discover and understand.
It’s not common a drama show to be only 30 minutes each episode, but in this case, I think it was the right decision. The episodes have a different structure: instead of following the traditional narrative arc, they are built around situations or dialogues, or when the protagonists are in different contexts and they equally divide each characters’ screen time.
Visually, the series is quite flat and doesn’t have any robust shot of framing, but it’s an aesthetic choice once they want to point onto a true to life representation. However, the dramatic close-ups are magnificent storytelling. The directing is very sensitive and approach the characters in a way you can understand them without a spoken word, they stand out on this. A huge part of this is the merit also of the actors. Daisy and Paul are just brilliant, even in the most uncomfortable scenes to shoot.
But don’t expect for something to binge-watch, I don’t think this is the case. Instead, give it a go for something deeply emotional. It’s worth a try because it will make you reflect on your past and current relationships, as well as your identity.