Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 5/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 9 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 10 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 11 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 12 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
In Hulu’s adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends, Frances Flynn (Alison Oliver) and Nick Conway (Joe Alwyn) start out with a sweet, awkward chemistry that dips and bows throughout the series, only to eventually fizzle out for lack of evolution (and conversation, ironically).
The wobbly progression reflects the arc of the Irish drama series, whose first episode centers Frances–her reserved, watchful eyes implying but not yet showing a depth to her thoughts and experiences. There’s something enchanting about the quietness of this introduction; its ambiguity, like that of Frances’ and Nick’s relationship, seems to hold promises of profundity. But Conversations with Friends never quite delivers.
Frances is a writer, as well as a university student with her best friend and ex-lover Bobbi (Sasha Lane). When the young women befriend famous author Melissa Conway (Jemima Kirke), and her actor husband, Nick, they quickly become caught up in their seemingly glamorous lives. Frances and Nick soon fall for each other and begin an affair, which may just alter Frances’ relationship with Bobbi forever.
It’s not an easy task to translate Sally Rooney’s novels to the screen, as they tend to be more introspective than plot-driven.
Like Normal People, much of Conversations’ story is built around everyday interactions, and all the glances and the hesitations and the inflections therein. But the restrained style of Conversations’ narration doesn’t convey as much purposeful meaning as its predecessor.
Too dependent on text messages and awkwardly punctuated conversations for character and plot development, it’s unclear by the end of the series who the characters in Frances’ life truly are, or why her central conflict with Nick should even be interesting to us.
The drama’s saving grace is in what remains unsaid. The Rooney adaptation will appeal to a particular kind of viewer with a lively imagination and tendency to fill in the gaps, for much of the meaning of Conversations with Friends is only ever implied. While many will lose interest in the series’ incredibly slow progression, its silences will still captivate many.
Interestingly, Conversations forces its audience to relate to its characters the same way it forces its characters to relate to each other–overthinking every vague statement, or lack thereof. So many moments between Frances and Nick are buoyed by unarticulated feelings, leaving the invested viewer to fill in the gaps.
Still, what really poignant and hard-hitting moments there are in the series (and there are many) can’t quite fill the hole the show digs for itself in the first episode. Its individual episodes are each compelling for their hints of what’s to come. Altogether, however, Conversations with Friends is something beautiful but incomplete.
While it establishes complex and captivating relationships that raise insightful questions about the nature of love and what it means to love more than one person–it simply doesn’t know where to take them, leaving us with unfulfilled character arcs and empty promises.
Verdict - 6.5/10