By Victoria Pope, First Year, English Literature
Is it possible to love two people at once? The new adaptation of Sally Rooney’s hit novel Conversations with Friends asks exactly this question, as the boundaries of marriage, friendship and desire are put to the test.
The new BBC drama follows best friends and past lovers Frances (Oliver) and Bobbi (Lane) as they meet wealthy husband and wife Nick (Alwyn) and Melissa (Kirke). A connection soon starts to develop between Frances and Nick, leading to an affair that causes tensions between the group to rise exponentially.
The TV adaptation has been highly anticipated following the lockdown favourite series Normal People (2020), based on another of Rooney’s best-selling novels. Following on from TikTok’s obsession with the show and the phenomenon that was Connell’s chain (even earning its own Instagram account), Conversations With Friends follows with the same romanticism of Ireland and complicated romances that we now know and love.
English student Frances, despite the occasional pretentious comment, offers a real and authentic representation of the confused, ambitious, introverted girl in their early twenties. Many can identify with the characters struggles with feeling overshadowed or left behind in the wake of her outspoken best friend Bobbi, and Frances’ attempts to find her role in the world away from her childhood is something recognisable to most young people as they begin to discover their identity.
In particular, the series’ depiction of Frances’ endometriosis diagnosis is extremely powerful. The raw depiction of the symptoms and challenges faced by those who suffer with the condition in an unfiltered and authentic way is important and helps to increase representation and awareness of reproductive health issues that are often glossed-over or completely ignored by mainstream media.
On top of this, the 12-part series' soundtrack is one to be contested with, featuring songs from the likes of girl in red, Mitski, and even an original song by Grammy nominated Phoebe Bridgers. The youthful, soft-indie feel sets the tone of innocence and discovery in combination with the more serious themes and topics that the show deals with, such as extramarital affairs and mental illness.
However, whilst offering insight into what it is to be a twenty-something navigating life on the pathway to adulthood, Conversations With Friends ultimately gives little reason for audiences to invest in the love lives of its characters.
In a scenario where husband and wife seem to have little loyalty to their marriage and have cheated multiple times in the past, what makes Nick’s new relationship with Frances important? The characters themselves appear to struggle to express ‘why’ at times, until perhaps Melissa’s confrontation of Frances in episode 10.
The somewhat repetitive, blunt dialogue offers little emotion or passion in what is supposed to be an exciting affair fuelled by love, and results in a relatively slow-paced narrative. Equally, many have blamed the lack of excitement in Alwyn’s performance as Nick, as he appears to bring little depth or intrigue to a character who says little and rarely displays any strong opinion or feeling.
Despite this, Conversations With Friends still offers an intriguing exploration of relationships and the boundaries of love in a way that isn’t often seen on our screens. Along with a more realistic depiction of early adulthood than audiences are used to, the series makes it well worth the watch whilst you procrastinate from your exams.
Featured Image: IMDB
What did you think of this followup to Normal People?