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5 May 2020

Normal People will make you want to get drunk and call your exes, and it’s perfect for lockdown



When the camera fades and the credits roll on episode 12 of Normal People, it takes a couple of seconds for me to notice I’ve been crying. I’d been so immersed in the world of Connell (Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones), that it took the BBC’s recommendation of 'what to watch next' for me to realise it was over.

‘Surely, this isn’t how it ends?’ I’d thought. I read Sally Rooney’s book this time last year, but couldn’t remember it quite feeling like the sucker punch to the stomach I’d just experienced.

At a time when the world is flicking between twenty-four-hour news coverage of Covid-19 and reruns of pre-recorded quiz shows, Normal People offered us an escape. It is new, it is highly anticipated - and within minutes, it is captivating.

Those reasons alone are enough to explain why, when they noticed a freeze-frame of Normal People on my Insta story, so many of my friends messaged me immediately, exclaiming about how incredible it is. But what is it about this adaptation that has taken everyone’s breath away?

Well, one of the most striking things about the series is that Normal People takes its sweet, sweet time. Instead of fast-forwarding through years of unrealistic, sensationalised relationship back and forth, the pace of Normal People feels like a journey you go on with the characters. Every meeting between Connell and Marianne is watched with anxious anticipation, whilst every exchange has a purpose. There is no mindless chatter to ease tension, instead, the unsaid is left hanging in the air for us to consume.

It is a tribute to Edgar-Jones and Mescal’s chemistry and talent, that every scene between them feels as though you’re inside the characters' heads. Their chemistry is exquisite, and frankly, as a twenty-four-year-old in week seven of lockdown, I know I’m not the only one who found the BBC humorously cruel for releasing Normal People at a time where physical contact is forbidden.

In part due to the timing of its release, and in part due to the brutal honesty that is Connell and Marianne’s relationship, I can’t help but feel that Normal People has become a vessel of reflection for viewers of all ages watching it during the lockdown: Its navigation of trauma and the mental and physical abuse of Marianne is a reminder of the domestic life so many people are facing right now, as we all remain in our homes.

Meanwhile, the storyline is essentially a timeline of the two building up and breaking down their relationships with each other and the rest of the people in their lives. As we continue to be away from our friends and families, the series makes for a vivid realisation of the role the people in our own lives play on our mental and physical health.

There is no doubt that Normal People would have been an enormous success with or without lockdown, but the series is a reminder of normalcy. As much as the series dealt with the brutality of young love and relationships, it also showed us what we’re missing out on - and how much we have to look forward to. Be prepared for a sudden longing to get drunk and call your exes, but do try to resist that urge.

Undoubtedly the best thing about Normal People, both the book and the series, is its unwillingness to tie up loose ends. Just as in real life, things don’t always go to plan, and the story ends refusing to pander to that narrative too. As we leave Marianne and Connell on the floor of Marianne’s old bedroom, we’re left with the knowledge that life doesn’t always pan out the way we think it will - but that is okay. And in a time of complete uncertainty, it is exactly the message we all need.

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I hope you're all staying safe and well.

Love, Alice x

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