In Review

Conversations with Friends: a disappointing adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel

Story follows a ‘love square’ between four millennials, who inhabit arty circles in Dublin

“Normal People was a lockdown TV hit that made stars of Daisy Edgar-Jones, Paul Mescal and neck chains,” said Ben Dowell in The Times. Now Sally Rooney’s first novel, Conversations with Friends, has been brought to the screen, with its story about a “love square” between four millennials, who inhabit arty circles in Dublin.

The book is dialogue heavy, but the TV adaptation is remarkably visual: emotions are conveyed via long silences and “snatched looks”, and whether you can hack all 12 episodes will depend “on your appetite for earnest and extremely slow drama”. For those “happy to hop aboard”, however, it carries “an addictive pull”.

I found this adaptation “dramatically superior” to Normal People, said Ed Power in The Irish Times – with one main reservation. Joe Alwyn, playing diffident actor Nick, speaks in a “wonky” accent that starts Irish, but ends up English, and his “lack of charisma” creates a void at the heart of the series that no amount of intelligent direction from Lenny Abrahamson can plug.

“Slow, solipsistic, and self-satisfied” as this show undeniably is, said Nick Hilton on The Independent, it does have an “ambient appeal”. This is TV designed to be watched “while scrolling through Instagram, peering in at strangers on two screens simultaneously”.

And if you’re not excited by the prospect of watching the lives of entitled millennials unravel “at a pace closer to Captain Tom than Mo Farah”, there are “plenty of close-ups of beautiful people kissing to keep you distracted”.

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