Media Spotlight: Normal People

Credit: Hulu

After graduating from USC I took an internship at a smaller film development company called Intrigue Entertainment.

The job was ideal. I wanted to feel close to the film industry and this put me right in the heart of everything I was interested in. One of my tasks was reading scripts by professional screenwriters, doing some coverage (like a book report) and saying if they were good enough to be produced/ seriously considered by the development company.

If I read the pilot for Normal People I don’t honestly think it would have gotten past my desk. I just wouldn’t have gotten it.

The reason is Normal People did something different from anything I’ve seen or read before.

It’s less about the words that the characters say and more about the motivations behind the words, the actions and mis-actions, thoughts and misconceptions of the deeply human, deeply flawed characters.

More than that, Normal People shows how the protagonists are deeply affected by the details of their lives, from the friends they keep, where they live, and how they spend their time.

What’s It About?

Credit: Hulu

Normal people follows the love story between Connell Waldron (Paul Mescal) and Marianne Sheridan (Daisy Edgar-Jones). Based in Ireland (Sligo and Dublin), it follows them from their late adolescence to their mid-twenties.

You can watch the trailer here.

Why Is it so Special?

Credit: Hulu

Normal people at its core is about a first love.

Though there’s a lot of media about that, Normal People shows you the intimate, complex emotions that come along with being in love in a complicated setting. The character’s flaws aren’t necessarily at the surface but you can see how their insecurities about themselves and their relationships drive them to act in self-defeating ways.

I saw my own flaws in the characters and was able to strongly identify with them. I believe others will too.

Normal People also shows, in explicit detail, how your friends and family can critically alter your opinion about yourself and where you fit in the world.


Credit: Hulu

The best mark of an actor is when it feels like they’re not acting at all, but rather just living inside the story built for them. This can be a challenge for megastars as we often see them more as the star than the character they are playing. For example, if I see Will Smith in a movie or TV Show, I see Will Smith, not his character.

Because Paul and Daisy, the leads, are relative newcomers I didn’t have this issue. To me they were the characters they were playing. Both are so talented that they were able to handle the deeply challenging roles in an honest, natural way.

Paul and Daisy also have tremendous chemistry and were able to convey such feelings for each other visually that I bought their love story and connection.

The supporting cast was also fantastic. Because I’m not familiar with the Irish media landscape, I didn’t recognize any of the actors, but again, I found that to be a great thing because there was nothing to take me out of the reality that the show built for me as the viewer.

It’s raw and honest with each frame allowing you to feel deeply for the characters.


Editing & Pacing:

The show starts out a bit slow as it introduces the characters but then builds to a much faster pace over time. With only 12 half hour episodes, a lot of time and story is covered in a short amount of time. The filmmakers show us what we need to see and nothing more.

The show often cuts to black at the end of a scene. Sometimes it feels like the scene ended too early. It’s a bold choice, but one that worked quite well for the show. I also liked the editing when the structure became less linear, allowing more creativity within the timeline.


Credit: Hulu

The photography in the show is beautiful, and you get to see some quite breathtaking places both in Ireland and Italy. Additionally, I felt the way the show shot the more intimate scenes was quite tasteful. Nothing was too glossy, it felt honest and real.

You can learn more about cinematographer, Suzie Lavelle‘s process for the show here.


The show’s two directors Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald are power-team. They were able to get tremendous performances out of the actors and also lead the production team to tremendous heights.

Here’s a great article behind the scenes from the Hollywood Reporter.


Sally Rooney, the novel’s author, Alice Birch, and Mark O’Rowe collaborated to write the screenplays. This adaptation must have been a difficult task considering how much is unsaid. The art of the writing was the thoughtfulness to show rather than tell the audience what the characters were thinking. Additionally, the writers allowed the actors to do a lot of the heavy lifting, which I appreciated.


Credit: Spotify

Normal People has an eclectic soundtrack. I tried listening to the Spotify playlist of all the songs from the show and I couldn’t get through it, too much genre variation. It fits the show quite well though. There wasn’t a point where I felt the music distracted from what was going on and it often provided a nice color to the story.

My favorite tracks are: the Arty Remix of Hey Now by London Grammar, which you can listen to here, and Nerina Pallot’s cover of Love Will Tear Us Apart, which you can listen to here.


I loved the styles! The attention to detail given to every character’s clothes, including supporting characters, was epic. From the school uniforms to the prom-like dresses, to the more grown up styles, I was incredibly impressed with the costume designer’s ability to match the clothes, accessories, and shoes to the characters. Everything felt like an extension of their personality and helped me understand them better.

Look out for Connell’s beat up Stan Smith’s when he’s backpacking in Europe.

You can read an interview with the costume designer, Lorna Marie Mugan, here.

Production Design

I’ll admit, I’m not the best at noticing set design in TV and film. It’s something I appreciate more subconsciously. However, because Normal People spends a lot of time inside intimate spaces, such as a bedroom, I noticed it more this time. Tremendous creativity and attention to detail.

If you want to learn more about the process of building the sets you can read a great interview with the production designer, Lucy van Lonkhuyzen, here.

Cool Sport: Gaelic football

You know the show is based in Ireland when they play Gaelic football.

This sport, which admittedly I had never heard of or witnessed before, is like a mixture between soccer and rugby and looks quite fun to play. You can learn the rules here.

Gaelic football is most popular in Ireland, obviously, but there are also associations in Great Britain, Australia, and North America.

If I ever go to Ireland I must check out a game. It looks, as Ron Weasley might say, “absolutely mental.”

Comparison To The Book

After watching the show I immediately bought the book and read it in one weekend. I couldn’t get enough of the story and I wanted to see if the book would provide any insight that the show didn’t have the time for. Sally Rooney, the author, is without a doubt one of the best voices of our generation. She writes beautifully and it able to convey so much with so few words.

I personally enjoyed the show more than the book. Having never been to Ireland, I felt more connected watching it on the screen rather than trying to imagine the locations when reading the book.

The differences in the story between the book and the show are quite minor as the show is true to the novel.

Keep In Mind

Normal People is rated TVMA. It is not for everyone. It deals with difficult, deeply emotional themes, and there is both female and male nudity. Normal People is however tasteful in how it handles the sexuality of the characters. I didn’t find the mature scenes to be pornographic in nature. But this show isn’t something you should watch with your parents and if you don’t like nudity or mature themes… Skip it.

Where to Watch?

You can watch the show on Hulu or BBC Three.

Final Thoughts

Credit: Hulu

The pandemic has forced me to really think about how I’m spending my time.

Time is something we never get back and I think of it as one of the most precious assets.

Therefore I am hyper-critical about the media I pay attention to. I often have to ask if a media product will provide a benefit in my life equal to the time spend.

Without a doubt that my time spent with this story was not wasted. I was delighted by the brilliance of the show and the book.

If you do take the time to watch it, I hope you enjoy it as much I did.

All the best,



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