Conversations with Friends Review: Joe Alwyn just doesn’t possess the on-screen appeal that Paul Mescal had in Spades

There is an immediate sense of familiarity in the opening scenes of Conversations with Friends, the follow-up series to the lockdown hit Normal People.

oth are adaptations of Sally Rooney novels. We know this world, we’ve been here before and we like it.

Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson is back with the same creative team, and there’s the same languid and gossamer nostalgic atmosphere, full of established and haunting shots of Dublin and Trinity College’s front plaza.

Of course, it would be practically impossible for conversations with friends to emulate the runaway success of normal people.

It went stratospheric; 62 million views on BBC iPlayer in 2020. It has skyrocketed the careers of Paul Mescal (Connell) and Daisy Edgar-Jones (Marianne), won countless awards and made O’Neill’s GAA shorts a cutting-edge fashion statement.

Part of the show’s success can be attributed to the fact that it aired in lockdown when we were stuck at home with nothing to do but watch TV, work in the garden and take endless 5k walks.

In this context, Sally Rooney’s world seemed extraordinarily enticing—full of vacations abroad, socializing, college parties, intimacy, and most of all, freedom.

Many of our favorite TV shows with lockdown targets haven’t had as much of an impact outside of the pandemic.

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During conversations with friends may not have such a captivating audience (literally), the first two episodes suggest the series could be as strong as its predecessor.


Joe Alwyn and Alison Oliver in conversations with friends. Photo: Enda Bowe/Hulu

It is beautifully shot and exquisitely directed, and the acting, particularly from Alison Oliver, is exceptionally strong. But maybe the central story isn’t as relatable as the first love at the heart of normal people.

In conversations with friends, the relationships are much more complicated. Frances (Alison Oliver) and Bobbi (Sasha Long) are best friends who used to date and now recite spoken word poetry together. In other words, not your average couple.

The two Trinity graduates begin a ménage-à-quatre with an acclaimed author, Melissa (Jemima Kirke), whom they meet at one of their performances, and her actor husband, Nick (Joe Alwyn).

Bobbi becomes attracted to Melissa while Frances and Nick begin an affair. Things are confused and chaotic: friends and lovers quarrel, people get hurt.

It has to be said that the characters at the center of this series are much less likeable than those in normal people.

Frances is pretentious, gruff, and sometimes monumentally judgmental, but she is also capable of moments of extreme vulnerability and self-doubt.

It is Alison Oliver’s skill as an actress to make these contradictions and changes in her character seem believable.

Sasha Long is impeccable as Bobbi and Jemima Kirke (of girl and sex education Fame) deftly conveys a woman quietly struggling to keep her life, career and marriage together.

Yes, there’s a lot of sex, but it feels less raw and intense than the scenes in it normal people. Maybe that’s because Oliver and Alwyn don’t have the same visceral chemistry.

Or maybe we’re just a little more used to the sexual shenanigans this time. My main reservation about the entire series is about Nick.

As a character, he’s so yielding and emotionally repressed that at times you want to reach into the screen and shake him.


Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones simmered on screen in Normal People

It seemed clear why Marianne would love Connell; He was emotionally inarticulate, yet very sensitive to his feelings. He was also deeply intelligent, loved his mother, respected women, had a heart of gold and was a good hand at GAA.

Nick is an introverted D4 actor who is passive, melancholy, and a genuinely terrible conversationalist. In many ways, I found it difficult to see his appeal.

Furthermore, Alwyn just doesn’t possess the sexual magnetism that Mescal had in abundance.

But perhaps the complexity and unpredictability of his and Frances’ connection and Frances’ respective relationships with Melissa and Bobbi will make the series obsessive. Anyway, I suppose most of the country will brace for more.

Conversations with Friends will be broadcast on RTÉ One on Wednesday 18 May.

https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/conversations-with-friends-review-joe-alwyn-simply-does-not-possess-the-on-screen-magnetism-that-paul-mescal-had-in-spades-41635503.html Conversations with Friends Review: Joe Alwyn just doesn’t possess the on-screen appeal that Paul Mescal had in Spades

Fry Electronics Team

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