Normal People

Ireland's utterly intimate portrait of teens in love is captivating thanks to two magical performances.

Irish coming of age drama Normal People is as tender as they come.

It’s also an utterly intimate portrait of two young teenagers attracted to one another but forced to conceal their relationship because of peer group pressure.

Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is a senior school loner, who has developed quick retorts to deal with a steady stream of schoolyard bullying and cruel comments about her appearance. While she may not aspire to join a clique of pretty blondes, Marianne keeps to herself.

At home her family-help is Lorraine (Sarah Greene), the mother of school athlete Connell (Paul Mescal) which is all it takes for Connell to visit one day and have alone-time with Marianne. It’s the beginning of a long connection between the two, first in stolen kisses and later in sensitive sex scenes.

But while both agree to keep their relationship a secret, it will soon test their strength. Can the school athlete be seen with the ‘plain-jane’ girl? While it sounds like a frat movie, the candid direction from Lenny Abrahamson makes this anything but.

Both Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal beautifully underplay their roles in this piece that is slow-burn and indie in style. There’s a lilting soundtrack and the sex scenes are the most tender since Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan in Outlander. Somebody should give a bonus to their post-#metoo intimacy director.

The drama doesn’t adequately explain why Marianne is on the outer with her peers, although we accept that she is…. indeed I couldn’t really ascertain why Daisy Edgar-Jones was perceived as so ordinary when she’s a pretty, if petite, actress in my view.

There are 12 x 30 minute episodes based on a novel by Sally Rooney. The two-hander scenes, full of raw romance, are when this series is at its most magical.

Normal People premieres Monday on Stan.

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