Normal People (2020)
Sally Rooney’s coming of age book Normal People has divided readers. While Barack Obama listed it as one of his favourite books of 2019, many bookworms were disappointed by Rooney’s style. And although I found myself on the satisfied side of that spectrum, I never expected its adaptation to become one of my favourite TV shows. However, when I saw that Lenny Abrahamson, the director of the wonderful Room, would be responsible for Normal People, I knew it would be good - I just didn’t predict how much it would impact me.
The screenwriters, with Rooney herself among them, created a consistent history out of the fragmented book. It couldn’t be an easy task with much of the novel’s power lying in the writing style, rather than only its simple story. However, screenwriters’ and directors’ efforts wouldn’t achieve anything if not for perfect actors. Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal are incredible as Marianne and Connell: there’s chemistry, passion, care. These roles would be challenging for even much more experienced actors than them because what’s truly important between Marianne and Connell stays unspoken, rather it’s contained in their glances, subtle movements, trembling of their voices.
They’re so convincing that I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t the only viewer who couldn’t believe that the actors don’t date in real life. Numerous sex scenes and graphic nudity could have turned out cringy if not for their acting skills, as well as subtle directing, intimate lighting and beautiful shots. I know that some viewers disregard them as unnecessary and even disturbing – but they are essential to show the progress of Marianne and Connell’s relationship. Moreover, actors and filmmakers emphasised in interviews that there was lots of planning and experts involved to guarantee comfort, so there’s no reason why we as viewers should feel that actors’ boundaries were crossed.
Above all, Normal People truly moved me: from the beginning to end it’s an emotional rollercoaster. There’s a couple of scenes that I doubt I would ever forget, such as the prom, therapy session and of course the ending, which made me cry like no other before.
It turns out Normal People was such a hit with viewers that it's both of our writers favourite TV adaptation!
Normal People (2020) and anticipation for Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
I am of the opinion that book to TV adaptations are so much better than book to film adaptations. Though there are some faithful movie versions of books (I’m thinking the Hunger Games (2012-2015) series), I always finish watching a movie adaptation feeling a little bit deflated, often muttering ‘the book was better’. Bits are cut for time, characters are removed or added, and plot lines are changed, often for commercial purposes. For me, adaptations are often disappointing.
This, however, seems to happen less when a book has been adapted into a TV series. More time can be spent on the story-line, characters can be developed more thoroughly, and worlds can be built more convincingly. Though there are definite anomalies, I personally think that the TV format allows for better, more faithful adaptations of books. A prime example of this are the movie adaptations of the Percy Jackson series, which most fans of the books absolutely hate. Due to their unfaithfulness to the books, it is clear why author Rick Riordan has distanced himself from the films and it is unsurprising that the Percy Jackson book series has been picked up by Disney Plus and will become a TV series in the future. It' set to start filming in Summer 2022.
Rather than dwelling too much on failed book to film adaptations, my favourite book to TV adaptation in recent years is Normal People. The show came out during the first lockdown, when everything was all a bit uncertain and scary, and was both cathartic and upsetting. Unlike most, I didn’t watch the TV series until a couple of months after it was released, and after lots of nagging from my best friend. I had read the book a few years before the series came out and I became quite attached to the characters. Because of this, I was anxious as to whether the series would have veered away from the book too much and if the characters that I had pictured whilst reading would be portrayed in the same way on-screen.
Of course, I watched the series and loved it. I was obsessed with Connell’s chain and cried buckets like everyone else. It felt like I had just read the book again, but in a different way. Normal People is a more nuanced story about the painfully complicated relationship between Connell (Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones), which spans many years. This, I think was perfectly captured by twelve half-hour episodes. Evidently, this adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel was so successful that her debut novel, Conversations With Friends, will also be adapted into a limited series that is set to be released in spring this year.