Normal People’ Review: A Love Story That Rips Through

Normal People

Sally Rooney’s novel unfolds as a poignant, sensuous, and socially aware tale of adolescence, exploring love and power dynamics.

Even for those unfamiliar with Sally Rooney’s “Normal People,” the TV adaptation immediately signals itself as a tale of youthful romance. Whether it’s the dreamy soundtrack or the palpable chemistry between Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal), evident within seconds, the show encapsulates a story that goes beyond the typical coming-of-age narrative.

The series, adorned with both intense emotions and intimate moments, spans 12 half-hour episodes of exquisite melancholy. Set in Ireland during the early 2010s, “Normal People” challenges teenage-drama stereotypes by portraying Marianne as the intellectual outcast and Connell as the popular, athletic figure from a less privileged background.

Their shared immediate attraction and intellectual depth lead to both passionate and vulnerable moments. In contrast to typical teen stories where sex is an end in itself, here it serves as a means of exploring identity, relationships, power, and powerlessness.

Rooney, collaborating with Alice Birch and Mark O’Rowe on the adaptation, crafts a nuanced exploration of power dynamics within the framework of a heartfelt teen soap. The narrative, extending through their college years at Trinity College, showcases the evolving dynamics between Marianne and Connell as they navigate triumphs, setbacks, and the passage of time.

While staying faithful to the novel, the series diverges in tone, offering a warmer, dreamier, and more tactile experience. The directors, Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald, infuse the storytelling with a visual and emotional richness that complements Rooney’s psychological depth.

“Normal People” unfolds through bursts of scenes, resembling a stroll through someone’s memories. The series captures pivotal moments and images that, in hindsight, prove to be profoundly meaningful. For those attuned to its emotional nuances, the show delivers a moving and impactful experience.

Edgar-Jones and Mescal shine individually and collectively, creating a relationship that becomes a character in itself. The series delicately explores how love can be a nuanced rivalry, avoiding the clichéd Team Him or Team Her narrative. The characters evolve individually and collectively, with each intimate moment transcending mere lust, as if they were uncovering hidden aspects within each other to complete themselves.

“Normal People” may initially seem like a teenage melodrama about love and intimacy, but it transcends that genre. It emerges as a dual bildungsroman, offering an empathetic study of two individuals navigating the complexities of coming of age together.