Recent hit Normal People and site favourite On Chesil Beach both feature couples failing to communicate. We analyze the characters, the story’s approaches to class, and break down the directing choices in key scenes.
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This episode features Editor-in-Chief Alex Heeney, Executive Editor Orla Smith, and special guest Fiona Underhill (@FionaUnderhill).
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On Chesil Beach (Dominic Cooke, 2017)
Set in the 1960s in a seaside hotel, On Chesil Beach follows Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) on their wedding night as they confront the awkwardness of their sexual inexperience — and worse, their inability to talk about it. As they fumble through dinner, sex, and a brutal conversation about what’s happened, we get flashbacks to the early stages of their romance: their meet cute, their growing affection and intimacy, and their complicated relationships with their parents. In the process, we see how deeply they care for each other, which makes their inability to communicate physically and sexually even more heartbreaking.
Normal People (Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald, 2020)
Normal People, based on the book of the same name, is a 12-part miniseries about young love. In the last few months of high school, the wealthy Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and working-class Connell (Paul Mescal), begin a secret sexual relationship — developing feelings they aren’t capable of acknowledging to themselves or each other. The series then follows them over the next four years, as they go to college together in Dublin, and have an on-again-off-again friendship and romantic relationship. The first six episodes are directed by Lenny Abrahamson and the final six by Hettie Macdonald. The book was adapted for the screen by Alice Birch, Sally Rooney, and Mark O’Rowe
Show notes and recommended reading
- Read our special issue on On Chesil Beach, featuring interviews with director Dominic Cooke, writer Ian McEwan, actor Billy Howle, costume designer Keith Madden, editor Nick Fenton, DP Sean Bobbitt, and production designer Suzie Davies
- Purchase or preview the ebooks mentioned on the episode:
- Portraits of Resistance: The Cinema of Céline Sciamma
- Tour of Memories: The Creative Process Behind Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir
- Peterloo in Process: A Mike Leigh Collaboration
- Beyond Entertainment: Feminist Horror and the Struggle for Female Agency
- Call Me By Your Name: A Special Issue
- God’s Own Country: A Special Issue
- Pre-order our newest ebook on Kelly Reichardt, Road to Nowhere: Kelly Reichardt’s Broken American Dreams.
- The intro and outro music this week is “Opening Vox” from Stephen Rennick’s score for Normal People
Where to watch the films and TV
- On Chesil Beach is available on VOD and streaming on Netflix in Canada and the UK, Prime and Kanopy in the US, and Stan and Kanopy in Australia
- Normal People is available on BBC in the UK, Hulu in the US, and Stan in Australia