Normal People

07/12/2020

Normal People. Element Pictures / BBC / Hulu, 2020, 12 episodes, ~30 minutes each.

Directed by Lennie Abrahamson & Hettie Macdonald. Written by Alice Birch, Mark O’Rowe, and Sally Rooney. Shot by Suzie Lavelle and Kate McCullough. Scored by Stephen Rennicks. Edited by Nathan Nugent and Stephen O’Connell. Starring Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal.

These are not normal people. We’re repeatedly told — told, not shown — that these are two exceptional geniuses with a unique bond. They are by definition abnormal. If anything “normality” is an idea they struggle with: him in his initial attraction to her, her in her disdain for those resembling ‘normal people’ and her desire to be part of a ‘normal’ family — though we never really see the eureka moment, she just slowly comes to an accommodation. The story is carried by the strength of their performances. It’s the depiction of their relationship that counts, at once both normal and abnormal: the latter insofar as they share this rare, powerful intimacy; the former because it takes the most ‘normal’ form imaginable. She’s submissive and wants to be possessed, though her masochistic streak is just an unfortunate deviation due to a lack of love; he will tell her to get in the car and threaten to kill her brother, but he won’t actually indulge the license she offers him. Souls mating, both neutered. Doesn’t get much straighter or more normal than that. Perverse, in its way. Abnormal.