Binge Break: Normal People provides poignant end to this column

This final Binge Break looks at the bittersweet beauty of friendship and romance in Hulu’s series, Normal People.


Kayli Reese, Managing Editor

The idea that a television show can be haunting seems silly, especially one that is just about the friendship between a man and a woman. But there is nothing more profound, painful, and promising than a story about two people who, despite life’s best efforts, can’t seem to escape the other’s orbit.

That’s the exact premise of Hulu’s Normal People, which is based off of 20-year-old Irish writer Sally Rooney’s 2018 hit novel. The story is simple, tracking the lives of Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal, the Internet’s new boyfriend) as they attend school and then university in Ireland. However, the gorgeous cinematography, phenomenal acting, and gripping love story combine into something uniquely gorgeous and evocative. After each episode, I had to close my laptop and walk around the house for a bit to cool down; each episode gripped my heart and refused to let it go.

Normal People is — and I don’t take a claim like this lightly — the best book-to-screen adaptation out there. Somehow, it manages to be completely faithful to a book that consists mostly of inner monologue. Each look conveys the same thing that 10 pages in the novel does; the craft is evident in every moment of each episode.

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I’m a sucker for a good love story, and this might be the best one I’ve seen in a long while. The best relationships are the ones rooted in friendship, and Marianne and Connell are no exception to this. Their story almost felt too intimate to watch at times, but I couldn’t look away from something so beautiful.

Marianne and Connell never seem to be in love with each other at the same time, making for nearly a decades’ worth of will-they-won’t-they. It can be frustrating as a viewer knowing that the slow burn, heartbreaking relationship would be alleviated of all issues if they just TALKED TO EACH OTHER, but the intense longing radiating off Marianne and Connell each time they are apart may just be worth the frustration.

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Both characters struggle with communication for different reasons — Marianne has a horrible family life she doesn’t let anyone see, while Connell has the most accurate struggle with anxiety on television today — but their connection never fully fades, even though it might make their lives easier if it did. Marianne never once stops trying to make Connell as happy as possible, even if it costs her all her chips. Connell never stops protecting Marianne, because it would kill him if anything happened to her.

Some people you meet and become intertwined with before you give yourself permission to do so. You wear the way you miss certain people like a favorite sweater, a fact you wrap yourself in each morning without a second thought.

As Marianne tells Connell, “It’s not like this with other people.” It’s the most accurate description of love, at least in my mind.