Conversations with Friends Review: Joe Alwyn, Alison Oliver in a Complicated, Elusive Drama

Hulu’s Conversations with Friends is based on Sally Rooney’s debut novel of the same name, who gave us the popular novel Normal People. Developed by Element Pictures, the show stars Alison Oliver as Frances, Sasha Lane as Bobbi Connolly, Joe Alwyn as Nick Conway and Jemima Kirke as Melissa Conway. The series consists of 12 episodes, each with a runtime of 25-30 minutes.

– Hulu’s Conversations with Friends Review Does Not Contain Spoilers –

Conversations with Friends: Is this the new Normal People?

Sally Rooney’s Normal People is a modern classic that left everyone with an impact, be it storywise or the spectacular performances by the lead actors- Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones. Hulu’s Conversations with Friends tries to mimic the atmosphere, chemistry and success of its sister series but, with the complicated and cagey storyline, it isn’t exactly the same. It is different in its narrative, disconnected in its approach yet sensible and relatable, like most of Rooney’s works.

Set against the backdrop of Dublin, yet again, we are introduced to Frances- an introverted, aspiring writer. Her best friend Bobbi is not only the closest thing she has to family but, also happens to be Frances’ ex-girlfriend and her entire romantic history. That is until she meets Nick Conway, an actor and husband to Melissa Conway, an older writer who befriends Bobbi and Frances after attending their joint spoken-word poetry performance.

Thus, starts the story of Nick and Frances’ inevitable and illicit affair that soon starts to make both of their worlds and other relationships around them crumble. With Bobbi and Melissa always at an arm’s distance, Frances’ wallflower heart starts to open up to Nick’s brooding one but, all of it comes with some irrevocable consequences.

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Conversations with Friends looks very French and indie with its colour palette and individual character moments. But, it is, nonetheless, a repetition of themes we are already privy to. Much like Normal People, our characters juggle the air of being in love but, keeping it a secret along with personal insecurities, family dynamics that shape your outlook of the world, the passion of newfound romance and the aftermath of all your actions. Although Frances confronting her vulnerabilities is different from the way Connell and Marianne confronted theirs, it still lingers on the periphery of those two characters.

However, the reason Conversations with Friends fails to stand out is because of the disconnected narrative and storytelling. Frances and Nick’s relationship does not find a solid ground for friendship before they start sleeping with each other. In the book, the two characters share several emails to establish a safe space between the two before they engage in a more intimate affair. However, the series jumps right in the middle of it, valuing their after-sex conversations more. Spanning over 12 episodes, the pace of the show seems too laid back for a story that is hardly unprecedented.

The performances aren’t a big help either. Alison Oliver is a talented actor, you can say, especially how intricately she adds layers of mysteriousness, narcissism, intelligence and vulnerability to her Frances. She serves as a reminder to all of us women out there chasing their dreams and desires while constantly overthinking it all. But, when you put her in a room with Joe Alwyn’s Nick there is hardly any chemistry that will engage you. One reason is surely how the characters just abruptly started seeing each other without any air of attraction or conversation and, even, later on, Frances’ in-depth knowledge of Nick comes from the characters around her.

Sasha Lane is, however, perfectly cast for her role and when joined with Jemima Kirke’s Melissa, they add more depth and emotions to Oliver’s Frances than Alwyn’s Nick is able to. Lane and Kirke are a win-win in their scenes and segments and, it is mesmerizing to watch these to two own up the screen every time with their presence.

Conversations with Friends: Final Verdict

Overall, Conversations with Friends is much more than a romantic affair and relationships being put to test. It explores life in a way only Rooney is able to through her work. But, when adapted from book to screen, the story has become elusive. But, maybe, that is where the beauty of this series lies- in the untold silences. The series tries to dramatize things in its final act and it works. As a whole, the show comes off as complicated and slow but, also interesting and probing. But, yes, this series surely isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

You can watch all the episodes of Conversations with Friends now streaming on Hulu.

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Hulu's Conversations with Friends attempts to be the new Normal People.

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Conversations with Friends Review: Joe Alwyn, Alison Oliver in a Complicated, Elusive DramaHulu's Conversations with Friends attempts to be the new Normal People.