It’s the raunchiest show ever to hit the Beeb with a full 41 minutes of nudity spread over its 12 episodes. Some have called it “porn for women”, some the most powerful, honest and beautiful portrail of intimacy we’ve ever seen brought to the small screen.
In brief, the BBC’s adaptation of Sally Rooney’s much-celebrated novel, Normal People, is nothing short of brilliant.
It’s birthed two bright young actors that I wouldn’t be surprised to see win Oscars in a few year’s time and made them household names, had a nation fall for the Irish accent (hot) and seen everything from the fashion to the raw, intertwined on/off relationship of Marianne and Connell talked about over Whatsapp groups, Instagram stories and more.
Heck, there’s even an Instagram account dedicated to Connell’s gold chain (@connellschain) that’s amassed almost 100k followers.
And then there are the locations. From the wild, rugged Irish coast to the endless hills and valleys of Northern Italy to the stark but stylish and snow covered Sweden, if lockdown hasn’t already made you want to travel, Normal People will.
We’ve taken a look at the locations featured in the series and, spoiler alert: one of them is even available to rent on AirBnB – once we all return to being normal people again.
The Irish capital almost becomes a third character in the story as Marianne and Connell both head there to study at the renowned Trinity College. The city acts as a backdrop for the duo’s stark class divide – her in her affluent red brick flat in the ‘good’ part of town and Connell in a typical student house share on the outskirts of the city. Marianne’s flat can be found in the posh neighbourhood of Ballsbridge on Wellington Road and in the series becomes the location for many a night discussing literature and politics over giant glasses of Pinot Noir and bowls of olives – I’ve been to uni, lived in student house – alright ones too – and it didn’t look a whole lot like this.
Trinity College, that counts the likes of Bram Stoker, Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde, Sally Rooney herself and even Paul Mescal who plays Connell as alumni, was also used for shooting. Real locations from the Robert Emmet Theatre to the famous front Parliament Square, the sports fields to the iconic brutalist Berkeley Library where used throughout the portrayal of Marianne and Connell’s university years.
The two central characters hail from County Sligo and the town of Tobercurry was used as the fictional Carricklea in the book.
The sweeping shots of the baron Streedagh Beach are perhaps the most iconic, where Marianne and Connell meet up amidst the sweeping sand dunes, a backdrop of Ben Bulben and the view of the tempestuous Atlantic Ocean.
For the New Year’s Eve scene, production used the charming Brennan’s Pub which typifies a traditional Irish boozer. Director Lenny Abrahamson told Tourism Ireland: “We shot in this absolutely gorgeous pub, run by a brother and sister, really unchanged, I would say for decades. That was very magical. It’s a particularly special experience to go to a genuine Irish pub, and I’m glad we got to put that one on film.”
While Daisy Edgar-Jones who plays Marianne revealed that on her days off she would regularly head up to Strand Hill, where you can catch breathtaking views of the rugged coastline.
The scenes in which Connell, Marianne and a group of friends go to stay in her parents’ Italian holiday villa are the most likely to make your feet itch. The villa itself is everything you want an Italian villa to be – charming, rustic, a little rugged round the edges but with epic hillside views – and it’s huge. In the book the villa is set in Trieste in Northern Italy, but they actually used a place called Il Casale Tenuta Verzano, near the village of Sant’Oreste, about half an hour outside of Rome. And guess what? It’s available to rent on AirBnB for as little as 40 euros per night. Well, that’s the two-bed apartment in the grounds of the villa, but you get the same vibe.
It’s not the first time the location has been scouted – it was also used in the find-yourself-film Eat, Pray, Love, starring Julia Robert.
Outside of the villa, the idyllic scenes of the duo eating ice creams in a deserted Italian square, exploring the countryside on rickety old bikes and Marianne, sunkissed in a vintage-looking little black dress will make you want to book a holiday to the Italian hills as soon as lockdown ends.
Finally, the complicated love story takes us to Sweden and the town of Luleå. Marianne’s time in Sweden, when she goes to study there as part of her Erasmus uni course, offers some of the most harrowing moments in the series. She’s stuck in an abusive relationship with manipulative photographer, Lukas, who photographs her in hard-to-watch S&M situations.
But there are touching moments of her time there too. Most notably of her and Connell in their respective bedrooms falling asleep together through Skype.
The exterior shots of Sweden were filmed in Luleå in Gammelstad, Swedish Lapland and one of the most memorable scenes shows the Frozen Sea which happens when the Baltic Sea freezes over between November and April, allowing people to walk and skate over it. Plus, shots of minimalist cafes that Marianne and her friends hang out in that look like an advert for Skandium and definitely make you want to explore the Nordic regions.
Whether you’ve watched the series or not (if you haven’t, do), Normal People has become one of the biggest TV conversations of lockdown. Travel inspiration aside, the BBC, cast and Sally Rooney, who worked as a producer on the series, have created something incredibly beautiful that is sure to sweep up a shed load of awards and launch the careers of two superstars once the world has been put back in place.
Find out more about Normal People here.