Normal People is an excellent adaptation of a great book. While the novel by Sally Rooney does plenty right, I actually prefer the show. The show-runners had a great understanding of how to adapt the work, and the result is simply stunning television.
One of the reasons the show elevates the story is that it is extremely well cast. There are plenty of great performances here, but Normal People belongs to Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal as Connell and Marianne. They both have strong chemistry making their love and attraction believable. They also convey plenty of emotion in just an expression. Without having to hear them say anything, you immediately understand their feelings, be it Connell’s insecurity or Marianne’s anger.
The direction is also exceptional. Both Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald have a deep understanding of the source material and how to translate that onto the screen. Rather than cram the story into the dialogue, they allow the actors and the visuals to do most of the work. This results in stunning camerawork and incredible performances from everyone involved. Smaller roles like Marianne’s brother, Connell’s friends from high school, Connell’s mother Lorraine, and others all are played extremely well. Their performances go perfectly with the great camerawork, capturing everything with excellent quality. The long and dark views of Irish Coasts, the beautiful houses, the crowded streets of Dublin are all excellent. However, the best shows are when the camera focuses on Connell or Marianne’s face. These moments are where Daisy and Paul are at their absolute best, conveying exactly what the viewer needs to understand.
Normal People is a beautiful adaptation, and while I highly recommend the source material, the show is an excellent substitute. Hulu and BBC did Normal People right, and Sally Rooney should be proud. A