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"Normal People is the complicated love story we need to see on our screens right now."

In the pop culture arena, the idea of first love usually falls into one of two camps.

It’s either a sweetly perfect template for what a relationship should look like, or it’s messy, uncomfortable and cruel, forever sentenced to remain a cringeworthy tale divulged to girlfriends after too many bottles of wine.

Yet in reality, first love, especially among teenagers and young adults, can be vastly transformative, widely complicated and also completely joyful, especially when you remove the overused angsty love triangles that seem to always pervade YA fiction.

This idea is very much the crux of Stan’s highly anticipated new series Normal People, based on the beloved and bestselling novel of the same name by Sally Rooney.

You probably know the novel, or you’ve at least seen the front cover on your Insta-feeds. It was on everyone’s book club lists in 2019, and for good reason, and now it’s finally gotten the on-screen adaptation it so badly deserves.

Take a look at the trailer for Normal People, now streaming on Stan.

In Normal People, we are taken to a small town high school in West Ireland and introduced to Connell (newcomer Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Cold Feet star Daisy Edgar-Jones).

Connell is a well-liked football player who’s easily accepted in his friendship group and smart enough to be working his way studiously towards university.

His single mother cleans houses to make ends meet, and it’s while picking her up after her days of scrubbing one of the ‘big houses’ in town that he comes to know his classmate, Marianne.

But this is not the classic ‘popular boy meets nerdy girl and they fall in love’ story you expect.

When it comes to how Connell and Marianne interact at school, their approaches are like night and day. Marianne, while also ferociously clever, has a more prickly personality. She prefers to spend her free time burying her head in a book during the lunch hour instead of participating in the high school fanfare, and a difficult home life pushes her to snap at teachers who attempt to make her toe the line.

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Despite their differences, or perhaps because of their shared interest in ideas, books and dreams, Marianne and Connell feel a tug of desire toward one another that slowly develops into a relationship, one that must be kept hidden behind closed doors, forcing them to still appear as strangers to one another in front of their school mates.

It may sound like it so far, but Normal People is not a reimagining of Romeo and Juliet, with Marianne and Connell’s slow-burn relationship being much more intense and complicated than those two Verona sweethearts could ever imagine.

As the story progresses, and we follow the pair into university at Dublin’s Trinity College, where the tables turn and Marianne finds herself at the top of the college social hierarchy, we discover the biggest foil to their relationship.

It’s not so much the interference of their families or friends, or even the social standards of the world around them – instead, it’s the complicated dynamics of how they behave when they’re alone together, both mesmerised by each other’s company and fuelled by a deep insecurity that the other person may need, not need or love them as much as they do.

Daisy Edgar-Jones as Marianne and Paul Mescal as Connell in Normal People. Source: Stan.
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Normal People takes a much more nuanced look than we’ve seen before at the insecurities and passions that grow within two people navigating the new waters of adulthood in different ways.

Not only is the plot emotionally engaging and honest, it's also sexy. Normal People has completely rescripted how sex scenes are depicted on TV, with Marianne and Connell's sexual desires and fears shown in equal measure on-screen.

Their characters also show the same amount of nudity throughout the series - a rarity for an industry that favours holding the camera on a young woman's form.

Their intimate moments punctuate where they really are in their feelings for another in that moment, whether playful, angry, filled with lust or terrified that their bond is about to break.

Over 12 episodes, Normal People tells a different type of love story to the ones we are used to seeing on TV, favouring grit over gloss in a way that makes Marianne and Connell's story pulse with realism on screen.

Normal People is still very much an addictive love story for the ages, but one that will challenge you as much as it entertains.

Every episode of Normal People is now streaming, only on Stan.

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