I have found myself questioning why I, alongside most of the world, am obsessed with the new Hulu show Normal People? Is it because I devoured the book in two days last Summer? Is it because of the glorious Irish lilt or the gorgeous actors? I’m sure these are both parts of it. This however does not explain the 16.2 million views in the UK (an extraordinary number for my native country), nor does it explain the constant stream of Tweets or the dozens of think pieces flooding the internet. The 12 episode show, based on the award-winning novel by Sally Rooney covers the journey of two Irish teens from high school in a sleepy town to college in Dublin and the turbulent relationship between them. This is hardly groundbreaking material like Black Mirror, nor is it thrilling dramatic content like The Crown. Here lies the spark of Normal People. During the quiet chaos of coronavirus, we all seem to be restless and dissatisfied with the glacial pace of life and the unending sense of being trapped in stasis. Normal People stuns in the silences, the stillness of life, reminding us to find the beauty in the mundane.
Much like the book, the show has little dialogue, what dialogue it does have is simple and powerful. The story takes place largely in the space between the characters of Marianne and Connell, the air between them holds so much intimacy and understanding, as the two find solace in their first experiences of love. You could compare it to Call Me By Your Name or Carol, both queer works focussed on glances and body language in order to highlight the normality of their love. Rooney brought this effect to a straight relationship that fizzes with a uniquely breath-taking tension. The tension from this story comes from the fact it feels so ordinary, you can relate to it more because very little actually happens. The action comes from intimate conversations, revealing
Normal People is basically the antidote to Zoom, no reaction button or private chat can make it comparable to real life. As much as I adore my near-daily happy hours, I would take a hug with my family over that any day. I have spent most of this period believing I was getting closer to friends, reconnecting with old mates from home, spending more quality time with aunts and cousins on Facetime, being reminded of the meaningful people in life. In terms of communicating, I can’t think of a time I was so in tune with the people in my life, but I also realize this isn’t enough.
Normal People is not a trailblazer, it isn’t fireworks and romance, at its heart, it’s a very boring, unflashy, unpretentious series. We may all be distraught at being stuck inside, unable to experience life fully, but Normal People reminds me that the things I miss are the simple acts of being human, smiling with friends, small moments of affection with a friend as you part ways, the internal acrobatics when you meet a new person, the thrill of laughing with someone as if no one else is around. Existing with another human and just being. Life doesn’t just take place in the classroom, in a bar, or at a party. The best memories are held in the smiles, the touches, the glances, the unspoken reactions when we finally all meet again and the world opens up, maybe we’ll appreciate these tokens of human interaction a little more and we’ll start celebrating simplicity.