Fifteen minutes after the final episode of Normal People concluded, I had begun to compose myself. I’d only just started to control my breathing; my eyes were still welled up. I then sat, head in my hands… and the final scene replayed in my head. I cried again. That was my experience with Normal People—an emotional, tender, romantic, sensual and deeply affecting masterpiece. Coincidentally, that’s what the series feels like—a beautiful collection of memories and moments in one’s life, and how a person can shape that life. Over the course of the 12-episode miniseries (based on Sally Rooney’s popular novel) we follow lovers Connell (Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) as they interweave throughout each other’s lives during their final year of high school and all the way through university.
Every scene with Connell and Marianne—whether it be a simple conversation or a more intimate scene—manages to convey so much on a viscerally emotional level. Every breath, every stare, every bit of awkward silence feels so real and authentic. What screenwriters Sally Rooney and Alice Birch do is make you completely empathise with our lead characters despite their mistakes, as we witness Connell and Marianne fall into the same habits again and again. We see Marianne and Connell become each other’s lifelines in more ways than one. Even when they’re seemingly out of each other’s lives, they somehow come back together again. The way sex is depicted over the course of the series is also vital. Directors Lenny Abrahamson (Room) and Hettie Macdonald direct these scenes in a way which is, refreshingly, not graphic or over-the-top. It’s about the micro-interactions, chuckles and beautiful silences. Both Marianne and Connell often say, ‘it’s not like this with anyone else’. It’s shown visually throughout and it’s a statement you genuinely believe.
I can’t stress how incredibly good Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones are in this series. They deliver some of my favourite performances in recent memory. There’s a palpable sense of rawness and authenticity when they’re together, and I can’t remember believing a couple this much on screen. They’re absolute superstars. If everything is right in this world we’ll be seeing them on screen all the time very soon.
Normal People is ultimately a series about longing. It’s raw yet feels epic in scope. It’s a series which you’d believe was filmed over many years. It’s painful. It’s rewarding. It’s beautiful. It’s everything I want from a love story.
Normal People is now streaming on Stan.