The Reel Review

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This Irish romantic drama is the love story of Marianne and Connell, two young people from different social classes in the same small hometown, and their recurring involvement in each other’s romantic lives throughout their late teens and early twenties. The 12 episode series on Hulu is based on Sally Rooney’s best-selling 2018 novel “Normal People.”

The series begins with the shy but popular, working class Connell (Paul Mescal) starting a secret sexual relationship with the equally smart but prickly, social outcast Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones), whose mother pays Connell’s mother (beautifully performed by Sarah Greene) to clean their upscale home in County Sligo. After Connell breaks Marianne’s heart in epic fashion, each ends up attending Trinity College in Dublin, and the tables are turned as the formerly popular Connell struggles to find his self confidence while Marianne blossoms while living in the city. Despite the turmoil they create when together, they just can’t seem to quit each other.

It’s easy to see why Rooney’s love story resonates so strongly across multiple generations from millennials to baby boomers. Its realistic storyline and intimate love scenes perfectly capture the heartbreak and emotional turmoil associated with a first love. Seeing the young lovers struggle with miscommunication and their own intimacy issues is absolutely heart wrenching. And Rooney’s screenplay, which closely mirrors her novel, is even further heightened by exceptional, nuanced performances from Mescal and Edgar-Jones, set to gorgeous visuals of the Irish and Italian countrysides reminiscent of 2018’s Call Me By Your Name, and a stirring score. This is one of those shows that will have you thinking wistfully of your own first love long after its emotionally impactful finale.

REEL FACTS

• After filming was completed, Paul Mescal gave his character’s signature chain necklace to Daisy Edgar-Jones as a gift.

Normal People author and screenplay writer Sally Rooney and fellow Irishman Paul Mescal both attended Trinity College. Daisy Edgar-Jones, who is English, also appears in the 2019 TV series adaptation of War of the Worlds starring Gabriel Byrne and Elizabeth McGovern.

Normal People intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien has also worked on Netflix’s Sex Education, HBO’s Watchmen and BBC’s Gangs of London. Both Mescal and Edgar-Jones praised O’Brien as brilliant. Says Edgar-Jones: “We just turned up, did the choreography and carried on.”

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