I went back and forth on whether to write this because I felt like it would probably be better if I watched it a second time. I wouldn’t really call this a review but more of me stating my reasons why I did not see this as a romance. But my watch roster is long and I am not able to fit it in. So, you guys have to make do with my first watch thoughts 😀
Normal People is a screen adaptation of the book with the same name by Sally Rooney. Set in Ireland, Marianne and Connell attend the same high school and become friendly because Connell’s mom cleans house for Marianne’s family. Marianne is an outcast at school while Connell is a well loved jock and the two barely interact even when other school mates are taunting her. The two begin a sexual relationship on one condition – Connell tells Marianne that no one at school can know about it.
By the end of high school, Connell pushes Marianne away but is remorseful at high school prom and confesses to having feelings for her. They reconnect in high school and the roles are reversed as Marianne is now popular and Connell more reserved. They eventually begin a sexual relationship and this basically sets precedence for their young adult life, till 23 (where the series ends) and it becomes a will they/won’t they scenario where they never could quite figure out being together.
Let me get this out the way to say that I thought the casting and acting for this show was fantastic. I don’t think they could have found a better Marianne or Connell BUT everything else about the show was frustrating to me. I was surprised that a “British” series was 12 episodes. Quite unheard of and the pacing was a bit slow.
I was also so surprised when I realized that there were people who thought their story was a love story. I may have even gasped. Part of my frustration was just how they couldn’t quite figure out that they were not for each other soon enough but you can chalk that up to young “love”. I completely get that they were friends and I can agree that they had a connection but there was just too much unhealthiness for it to be a love story [for me].
I think both of them had too much baggage/trauma or rather baggage/trauma that weren’t compatible and there was a reason why after many opportunities, they couldn’t make it work. I remember thinking as I watched that I couldn’t see Connell as the good guy. Even besides, Marianne I didn’t appreciate how he treated the girl he was dating when he ran into Marianne at a funeral. I saw him as a guy who truly wants to be a good person and good at relationships but just needed to sort a lot of things internally. I had a discussion with a friend who saw most of the issue with Marianne.
It’s unfortunate that we were not given enough context or background as to why Marianne’s family hated her so much or the root of Connell’s insecurity/demons since his mother seemed like such a sweetheart. I go back to the example of the one summer where Connell had to go back home because he couldn’t afford rent and to me it was so telling that he couldn’t ask to stay with Marianne and Marianne did not offer.
For me, I think what they were drawn to was what each represented to the other. With so much chaos inside them, I think they both represented a familiar anchor. This person knows me. This person has known me before I was this. This person has seen some of the ugly. This person knows my body. So I think in some ironic way, they reached out to each other for some sense of normalcy in some dysfunctional way.
Well at least they had sexual chemistry? Loads of sex and nudity in this show as expected in young, dysfunctional “love”. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, especially if you considered this a sweet, love story(hoooow? I kid :D) I am not sure if I recommend it because on one hand it was well acted and conveyed a lot of subtle nuances very well but on the other watching the dysfunction over 12 episodes was painful, sad and it dragged out a tad.