Review: Normal People

Based on the best-selling book by Sally Rooney, Normal People follows the intertwined lives of Connell (Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar Jones). Both growing up in Ireland, the pair begin by dating in secret at school. Embarrassed that Connell is keeping Marianne as a secret, the two lose touch, causing great sadness for Connell.


Both Connell and Marianne get into Trinity University in Dublin and reunite unexpectedly again, although this time Marianne is thriving amongst a group of intellectual (although extremely irritating in some cases) young people, whilst Connell struggles to fit in and form new friendships. Again, the pair fade in and out of each other’s lives during this period as they both take on new experiences, have new partners and must deal with different and unexpected life events.


Whilst the acting and the logistical aspect of the show could be reviewed and it most certainly has, with all the actors and actresses performances being praised to a high standard, it is important to address the many relevant social issues that Normal People covers so admirably well throughout the series. 


Firstly, the show addresses the issue of class. One of the main reasons Marianne and Connell seemingly don’t always make it back together is because of their extremely different life paths. Marianne is from a wealthy family and Connell is working class, living in a small terraced house, and struggling to make ends meet at university. This disparity was important to highlight as it demonstrates the parallel experiences of different people who attend university, showing that, despite everyone attending the same institution, the experience of being there can be incredibly different.


Second, we see Connell suffer from anxiety and depression following the suicide of a friend. The programme often has many silent cameos of Connells face during these scenes, showing how hard it can be to talk about these issues. What’s more, it was important that Rooney (in the book) chose to use Connell as the character that went through this in the most hard-hitting way, demonstrating the importance of men’s mental health. 


Finally, the releasing of Normal People during the period of lockdown seemed to make all the above that bit more impactful. It became even more relatable and seemed to exemplify a life or an experience that every viewer, in some way or another, could understand in a much deeper way. A tweet from the BBC reporter Tina Daheley said ‘Marianne and Connell’s lives are nothing like mine yet they are me. They are all of us’. 


The fact that the show was released during a period of uncertainty made it even more compelling to watch. The show allowed individuals living through extraordinary circumstances to watch ordinary people’s lives unfold in a way that was both relatable and thought provoking.


Normal People is available to watch on BBC iPlayer for free and you can buy the original novel by Sally Rooney from Waterstones here.