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Normal People: Sally Rooney’s Much-Loved Tale Hits the Screen

By Emily Poole

After eagerly awaiting the arrival of the TV adaptation, Sally Rooney’s internationally acclaimed bestseller finally reached the screen last night on BBC iPlayer. From the first episode, it became clear that the slow-burning tale following young on-again-off-again couple Marianne and Connell was one so true to the infamous novel that many adored and you will undoubtedly not be able to stop watching.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, the story follows an honest, smart and very real portrayal of a young couple through their schooling years to university life. Rooney’s exploration of heartbreak, the complicated and disjointed reality of young intimacy is at times an uncomfortable watch, but one which feels to be very familiar. Set in small town Ireland, it brings to life the normality of what many young people go through their younger years, how social status, friendship circles and the relationship with the place they grew up in, shifts and adapts to the new life they have made for themselves.

Marianne was a loner at school, and subject to a considerable degree of bullying, whilst Connell was well liked but felt somewhat trapped within the bounds of peer pressure that caused him to imprison his true self. As they leave school and both move to Trinity College, Dublin as undergraduates, the dynamic shifts and Marianne finds herself surrounded by comparably like-minded people, where Connell finds less luck and in some ways more alienated than he did previously. The unlikely pair undoubtedly have a deeper intellectual relationship and way of communicating that continually draws them to each other. Their connection is undeniable, yet as they go through life, changes in their paths cause them to cross, just miss each other and battle various obstacles along the way.

If you, like me, fell in love with the completely relatable tale of friendship and coming-of-age romantic love that Rooney’s novel so beautifully portrayed, you will surely not be disappointed by its wonderfully executed screen adaptation. Daisy-Edgar Jones and Paul Mescal are a perfectly casted pair, who in my opinion, fit the characters just as I had imagined. Their performances, capturing a life-like portrayal of consensual sex, highlights the necessity for more honest representations that are sadly lacking in film and TV.

Staying true to the original narrative, the story was adapted for screen with Rooney herself as the Executive Producer, to ensure the tale as witty, intimate and heart breaking as it was originally told, was preserved in all its glory. By bringing the much-loved book to life, there was certainly a considerable amount of pressure upon the young actors, yet the chemistry between these two and they way they understand the humour of each character is what makes the drama a resounding success.

You can watch all episodes of the binge-worthy show now on BBC iPlayer. Be prepared to laugh, cry and truly relate to this beautiful and heart-warming story of two normal people.

Image credit: IMDb