Sally Rooney’s prose, which seems very simple, is most attractive because of the complexity it can contain. In the first chapter of her novel, conversations with friends, The narrator, a young woman named Frances, paints her temper in quick flashes. At one point she said, “I couldn’t think of anything clever to say, and it was hard to arrange my face in a way that conveyed my sense of humor.” Frances’ constant self-examination makes her an exciting and disturbing narrator. But what’s great on the page isn’t necessarily the best fodder for what’s great on screen. In the wake of Hulu Ordinary peopleAnother Rooney quote directed by Lenny Abrahamson (room) This tender was painful to budding and built intimates, the poster is back Conversations with friends. The results are mixed at best.
Like Frances, a wayward poet who falls in love with a broken married man (an actor, of course), Alison Oliver has had an understandably difficult task. Frances lives in her head, constantly thinking about her actions, words and fears. She’s the type who prefers to speak in words for fear of writing down anything in print and making him live abroad. (“I love the impermanence of this,” she admits.) She’s an inward-looking character, a witness to her own life. To Oliver’s credit she finds ways to make this impression readable all the time conversations with friends, I managed to catch it in a side glimpse or a subtle blush. And yes, she comes to life when she meets Nick (Joe Alwyn). Suddenly, she’s no longer on the sidelines or playing second fiddle to her socialite friend Poppy (the always-sunny Sasha Lane). With Nick, she finally feels visible, even though she knows that such looks are necessarily fleeting. He is married after all. Perhaps as secluded. Their awkward courtship at first was charming and more grounded than such scenes often seem. “What are you writing about?” Nick asked her before immediately regretting, “That’s a horrible question.” They stumble on their way to an affair where her need to appear is so transparent that she knows it’s too deep.
And all this for the affection of one man. And that’s what makes this mini-series falter.
Nick is supposed to be the catalyst for something changing inside Francis. Otherwise, why start an affair with a man married to an older woman whose best friend deals with her as well? (Yes, the show and narration may hint at amicable dynamics, but the intimate relationships explored here are certainly more subtle.) And in the end, Alwyn, a beautiful specimen (it’s understandable why Oliver Francis hesitates when caressing his naked body, dreads it.) He disappears and proves himself a figment of her unbridled imagination), he can never capture the magnetic attraction that his character is called to bring down. Not helped by that sparse and over-defined script, which sometimes makes his characters express what would have remained an inner soliloquy in Rooney’s words. (“You think about things and don’t say them,” Francis was told at one point.)
It’s no surprise that the series is even more interesting when it completely ignores the dialogue. The sequences in which Frances anxiously checks her phone for a lone text from Nick, or when she fiddles with her hair when she knows she’s being watched, truly become ordinary moments burdened with great emotions. (Side note: Kudos to Abrahamson for shooting his actors actually typing on phones and not relying, as many products do these days, on writing on green screen props where actual writing is added in the post; it’s silly to focus on those details, but it’s It’s refreshing to see such digital conversations have such a sensitivity.)
As Nick and Frances’ relationship blossoms (and ebbs and flows), Conversations with friends Blink makes a great suggestion. It is a rune book. “Novel is better” sounds like such a tired line but there is something to be said about the inner expanse that the prose allows and the way a television adaptation can lessen such sensitivity rather than distill it. Then again, as Francis reminds us, the permanence of Rooney’s words is still there, we all have to find, even after we’ve worked our way through this adaptation wondering why those words alone weren’t enough.
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