Series: 'Conversations with Friends' (Streaming on Lionsgate Play)
Duration: About 28.5 minutes per episode (Total 12 episodes)
Directors: Lenny Abrahamson, Leanne Welham
Cast: Alison Oliver, Sasha Lane, Joe Alwyn, Jemima Kirke
IANS Rating: ****
This 12-episode series streaming on Lionsgate Play is based on author Sally Rooney's novel of the same name.
The series is a shrewd, psychological assessment of power struggles amongst young, sophisticated intellectuals who are in a relationship. It tells us about how people behave when they are in one and what happens after.
Frances and Bobbi are smart and talented 21-year-old-students. Frances writes poetry and is studying- English, while Bobbi, her steadfast friend and former lesbian lover, studies - history and politics and identifies as a communitarian anarchist.
They both like to participate in poetry slams where they spar loquaciously and precociously.
Frances suffers from low self-esteem, is unable to express her emotions, and often uses her razor-sharp wit to skirt around uncomfortable topics. She is in awe of Bobbi, whose personality is just opposite to hers. While she is tight-lipped, Bobbi - dazzling and controversial in her demeanour, is open an open book with her emotions and speech.
Their friendship goes through a rough patch when they meet Melissa and Nick, a wealthy couple in their thirties, and unexpectedly, yet perhaps inevitably, intimacies between the foursome grow and complicate their existence. Suffice to say the series is a love quadrangle between two friends and a married couple.
But, the heart of the series tends to lie not with the way people in relationships hurt each other but with the way that hurt goes hand in hand with intimacy and with the idea that intimate relationships reshape the self.
Narrated mostly through Frances' point of view, the series is compelling because the plot is focused and unravels at a leisurely pace. It has a healthy balance of internal struggle that juggles reality with consequences. The series is relatable as it takes Frances' everyday life, her thoughts, and feelings and interprets them in a poetic way that is unmatched. It makes you realise that everything she does is a part of growing up.
Yes, the characters talk, and their conversation does not adhere to the stereotypical template that we are used to, this makes this series stand out, and probably that's how it got its title. The dialogues are neither dramatic nor are they camouflaged in the histrionics of the characters, yet they have an emotional impact. The romance and chemistry between Frances and Nick- are tangible.
Alison Oliver as Frances, Sasha Lane as Bobbi, Jemima Kirke as Melissa, Joe Alwyn as Nick, Alex Murphy as Frances' colleague, and Frances' parents; are all brilliant, living in the skin of their characters.
Overall, this analytical series on adultery ends not with the affair's conclusion and the punishment of all those involved but with its conscious, deliberate continuation and the rejection of all analysis.