You know those moments when people tell you to watch something and the sound of their voice drowns in usual, monotone programming recommendation noise? It stays in the back of your head, for that particular lie you keep telling yourself: “I’ll watch it when I finish Netflix”, or maybe you’ll bench it for the 17th Covid wave. This is not one of those moments. I know everyone says this, but this is NOT one of those moments. This is that life-changing moment where you’re actually crippling yourself by not turning on Normal People right this minute, and/or ordering the book as we speak.

I have never watched something quite like this. I watched everything that exists, yet not a single show made me feel some uncharted, confusing, brilliant, transforming kind of feel like this one. I can’t even break it down in sense; is it because of the acting, is it the delivery, the plot, the dialogue? I can’t tell you. I don’t know!

What I can tell you, I almost got fired when I read the book. A friend that recommended it to me told me precisely: “Read it on a day where you have nothing to do”. I, of course, didn’t listen, started, and refused to live, eat, work, breathe until I finish it. I was so consumed in it, the life outside stop mattering; and repercussions for my absence in my real life obligations all seemed worth it.

Also, I can’t really convey the excellence of this show with words. It is so many things, and so many feelings, I don’t know where fiction ends and where it brings you to your school days, reminding you of everything that ever mattered and made you who you are.

The story itself isn’t something we’ve never seen before. There is a boy, there’s a girl, there’s high school, there are cliques, there’s a family, popularity, identity, there’s Ireland. But au contraire to all of the shows you ever watched, specifically the American ones where the cliche is punching you in the face with the regular programming such as – with wealth comes popularity, the girl/boy is unkempt until a popular love interest catapults their evolution, and there we fade out.

Author of Normal People, Sally Rooney – doesn’t insult us with this surface; and not necessarily because she is more talented writer than others (she is), but because she’s not trying to be a voice of a generation, nor she relies on gimmicks like over-literalizing her characters as we see in most American young adult novels or tv-shows with too articulate teenagers. Her characters are real, like her, like us. In the sex scenes, they feel more than they talk, and we feel it all with them.

Sally Rooney did all this at 27 years old.

The Guardian described her as: “Rooney’s being hailed as the voice of the millennials, a Snapchat Salinger. It was an intensity of acclaim that happens once or twice in a generation, placing her alongside Donna Tartt or Zadie Smith as a writer who appeared to emerge fully formed, not only in her craft but as a literary celebrity and a mouthpiece for something in the culture that needed to be articulated.”

For SOMETHING in the culture that must be articulated.

Enter, actors. Paul Mescal as Connell and Daisy Edgar-Jons as Marianne are one of the main reasons this show is as legendary as the book. I can’t quite give them justice; there are no adequate words to verbalize their chemistry, you have to experience it. Experience them. They are why Normal People is such a phenomenon and why it sparked a Shakespearean level of romance chatter in the industry. Both practically beginners, they each had only one or two roles prior to Normal People.

They showcase such a level of artistry, it’s a recommended study for all of those souls dreaming about being an actor, especially those persistently misunderstanding mimicking your face while speaking in a theatrical tone for talent. These two are a case study, a masterclass, artistry of every possible kind.

I’m trying to convey the brilliance of this show/book without spoiling the plot for you. I like this review by Lainey Gossip:

“Normal People is about the sex and not also about identity and class and privilege and the emotional wandering that has become a millennial preoccupation. Not that I’m complaining. Horny is good. I always want more horny. 

This is a book that is more than what you think it is. It’s a story about two teenagers and their secret relationship. It’s also a story about what we ask for in our relationships, and how those relationships change, or don’t change, when we start to examine what we want out of them. 

We meet Marianne and Connell in high school, or ‘secondary’ as they would say, in Ireland – and they’re worlds apart. He’s an accepted cool kid, she’s very much not; whether that’s in spite of the fact that she’s the wealthy smart girl or because of it depends on the particular, personal lens you view it through. But once they get to university and beyond, the tables are flipped. Now Marianne has the upper hand, and knows how to operate in the wider world in a way Connell doesn’t. 

These two have a sexual connection, yes, and their chemistry puts them onto an even playing field – but once that imbalance has been righted, they spend the rest of the story trying to find that equilibrium in the rest of their lives. They know, once they reach university and beyond, that it’s not the be-all to end-all in and of itself, but it’s the key that lets them understand each other. It’s when they’re out of bed that Marianne and Connell have trouble finding their rhythm together, and the subtlety and the tragedy of it is realizing why that difficulty is neither of their faults… but the longing for them to get back to that place is, well, you know, sexy. Because it’s longing.”

Yeah, also, sex. You have never seen sex being shot on film this way. Vulture is equally obsessed with Normal People take on sex:

“There’s a sex scene in the second episode of Normal People that lasts nine minutes and 24 seconds — or, put another way, a third of the entire episode. It begins with Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones), our endearingly awkward heroine, haphazardly applying eyeliner, then wiping it off in frustration before pulling on a blazer and walking nervously over to Connell’s (Paul Mescal) house. The two, who’ve known each other for years but just confessed to a mutual attraction, know what’s about to happen, but neither knows exactly how it’s going to happen, and the buildup is deliciously uncomfortable.”

Marianne is played with such nuance, hurt, abandon. Connell’s voyage through discomfort/comfort, need/want makes for craving these people, this story. It takes you back to every significant moment of your early years, the pain, the hurt, confusion, consumption, evolution to your adult life. Its somber tone, music, aesthetics will transport you to the limbo between this story and your own life, and you’ll hate coming back, once you finish.


‘Normal People’ is airing on HULU.