Roo and I finished watching “Normal People” last night. We had been limiting ourselves to two episodes a day (they are each between 20 and 30 minutes long) but the tension was so great at the end of episode 10 that we had to watch the last two episodes. As the last line of the last episode was spoken, the credits rolled and we both just sat in silence for a couple of minutes contemplating the mixture of emotions that had been stirred by this utterly compelling and brilliant series.
No real spoilers – the series is about a young Irish couple and their relationship over a few years. The acting is amazing. The dialogue is so natural it feels improvised at times. The photography is stunning – there’s lots of sex scenes and they tend to be filmed with golden sunlight accentuating the beauty of Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal. The story feels very realistic – the mixed up feelings and emotions of two people in love for the first time; they both make bad decisions at times and the great thing about the story is you can perfectly well understand why they have made these mistakes. The series is an adaptation of a book of the same name by Sally Rooney which last year The Guardian nominated as the 25th best book of the 21st century.
Six of the episodes were directed by Hettie MacDonald and she directed “In A Land Of Plenty” which is another series which was also photographed beautifully. This was shown in 2001 and is also fantastic. For some reason, it’s not available on DVD or through a streaming service. I have it on a set of VHS tapes but I’m not sure whether my old video player still works. Maybe I should try it out.
I can’t remember seeing a better tv series. I shall certainly be watching it again.
The music in “Normal People” is excellent. I was very pleased to hear a song by Villagers. It was my musical guru Peter who introduced me to Villagers and their sublime album “Darling Arithmetic”. They are a group from Dublin and the front man is Conor O’Brien who, on this album, sings and plays every instrument. They have released 5 albums and this is the 3rd which, like the first two releases, became a Number 1 album in Ireland.
The second song on the album is “Everything I Am Is Yours” and this is the song that was played in an episode of “Normal People”. The words are a perfect encapsulation of the feelings portrayed by both characters. “I am just a man/to bend all the wires/tight rope walking fool/balanced on desire/I can not control/these ever changing ways/so how can I be sure/the feeling will remain/it will always change/for everything I am is yours.” The instrumentation on the album is restrained; guitar, synthesiser, some percussion, some excellent bass playing all accentuated by Conor’s very sympathetic voice. The Guardian wrote that the lyrics that he writes show “an eerie sense of disquiet” and I think that’s very accurate.
My favourite track on this album is “Hot Scary Summer”. The title came to him when he wanted to thank some Japanese people who had worked hard to help Villagers. The Japanese for hard work is, apparently, “otsukaresama” which sounds a little like “Hot Scary Summer”. He then developed this phrase into an account of what it is like for a gay man growing up in a country where the Catholic Church still had a huge influence. In particular, he was chased down a street for holding hands with a friend.
“Thank you for your hard work/But I’ve had it up to here/’Cause this shouldn’t be hard work/At least not the kind that makes us/Half a person, half a monster/Stuck together in this hot, scary summer/Oh, Lord/Hot, scary summer/Remember kissing on the cobble stone/In the heat of the night/Then all the pretty young homophobes/Looking out for a fight”
Today the sun has come back and the forecast for the next couple of weeks is good. There’s talk about professional sport starting up again. Schools may be accepting children. The lockdown may be eased. However, the dangers of contracting the virus haven’t gone away. “Hot Scary Summer”.