This adaptation of the novel of the same name, mainly written by the novel author, Sally Rooney and playwright Alice Birch, is the perfect example of an adaptation that truly understands and brings to light the essence of its source material. It follows the intertwined destinies of Connell and Marianne (Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones), two Irish young adults who inevitably and irreversibly stumble upon each other in their journeys time and again throughout childhood, teenage and college years.
The first six episodes are directed by Lenny Abrahamson, the man who directed Brie Larson's Oscar winning performance in 2015's Room, a filmmaker with exquisite and very specific sensibilities, especially when it comes to highly intimate cinema, and Normal People proves to be the perfect playground for his beautiful shots of two people perpetually connecting on many personal levels. Same goes for the director or the latter six episodes, Hettie Macdonald, who cleverly moves the camera a nudge away from the two of them in order to capture the bigger picture of their eternally and sometimes tragically tethered lives. The series' vision grows up just as they do, encapsulating a staggering range of realistic and relatable emotions of the young age.
Abrahamson's and Macdonalds' careful and emotionally complex direction, together with some realistic writing that wisely takes its time with the story make up for a near flawless romance. However, this would have never worked without two performances for the ages. Both Mescal and Edgar-Jones bring their characters to life with fearless vulnerability and lots of nuance. They actually allow you not merely to observe Connell and Marianne, but instead to really know them. Rarely do you get to see performances that indicate complete and utter dedication such as these ones.
Middleditch & Schwartz was one of the biggest suprises of the last years. The titular duo performed what is perhaps the most creative Netflix comedy special out there, running at a staggering total of three hour-long episodes of completely improvised long form comedy. Each time they craft a story full of belly laughs, recurring themes and bursting of originality, starting only from a short conversation with someone in the audience.
You may know Thomas Middleditch as the main actor in HBO's massively underrated Silicon Valley and Ben Schwartz from a hilarious, supporting role in Parks & Rec. Together they are Middleditch & Schwartz, a genuinely exciting stage duo with flawless chemistry, two artists playing off each other's energy to master improv, the jazz of comedy.
Alex Garland did it again: he took his singular vision of restrained, cerebral sci-fi and crafted another story full of questions about the human nature, but this time in a episodic format, and it's almost as effective as the last decade's sophisticated gems 'Ex Machina' and 'Annihilation'.
Anchored by a stellar duo comprised of Sonoya Mizuno and Nick Offerman, both of which completely transform into their flawed, realistic characters, the series follows the titular Devs, a top secret, elite department of a futuristic tech behemoth company and their world-changing enigmatic work involving quantum computing.
'Devs' unique, breathtaking aesthetic couldn't have been worked as powerfully as it did had it not been created only by one special mind. The script is more than clever, controlled and ultimately, surprinsingly well equipped in the emotional sense. However, Garland's code in 'Devs' has one irritating bug: it's deliberately pretentious. It sometimes seems like the script actively rejoices when you're forced to look a complex physics concept online in order to understand the plot. If recent science-heavy TV thought us something, it's that you don't need incomprehensive, PhD level concepts in order to transmit your message to the average viewer.
The series' structure itself, although a little dragged out for the sake of character development, is solid and really well thought out, especially the near-perfect third act but, at the end of the day, 'Devs' true strength lies in its fascinating characters, layered, relatable and perpetually full of surprises.