Why everyone says ‘Normal People’ has the best sex scenes on TV
Hulu’s Normal People, the series based on the eponymous book by Irish author Sally Rooney is a lot of things. It’s a trailblazer in its depiction of human relationships & growing up. At times, it’s a caustic commentary on class. Marianne plays the school outcast & Connell is the school jock. Back home, Connell’s mother works for Marianne’s family. The intersections of class & privilege are truly complicated.
What’s there to complicate these intersections further is young lust. Marianne & Connell have known each other for years, but it’s only now that the hormones have set into motion. The sexual tension is undeniable. One episode in & you know Normal People is not your run-of-the-mill, typical coming-of-age story. It’s a plot without pretense, because the characters seem to carry enough as is.
The series chronicles the journey of the two protagonists from their school life, to their young adulthood. We get to see how beautifully their meanings & expressions of love change with time & age. They grow up, they grow apart, and they find their way back to each other…until life intervenes. The characters & the plot are winners, but the sex scenes in the movies deserve recognition of their own.
Even Nicole Kidman’s a fan
If you watch the series in a binge-watching urgency, we won’t judge you. Having said that, you might lose track of just how many sex scenes are in the show. Each episode is interspersed with sex scenes of varying intensity, urgency, and well, normalcy. But the way intimacy & intimate gestures have been captured on the camera is commendable.
Seems like we have Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman in agreement. In a recent interview, Kidman mentioned, “There’s a lot of sexuality in Normal People but both actors felt very safe and they were able to still do those really intimate things. It was exquisite work.”
Of course, she may be a fan of the series – there are many reasons to like it – but she’s looking at the sex scenes as an artist: it’s a lesson in acting & cinematography to be able to execute such audacious sex scenes so comfortably, yet honestly. The sex scenes in the series stand apart because of their sheer lack of pretense or hyperbole.
That sounds like high praise coming from Kidman, who’s no stranger to shooting intimate scenes. She shot a sex scene with Big Little Lies co-star Alexander Skarsgard, she previously bared it all for Eyes Wide Shut opposite Tom Cruise, among other intimate scenes.
She spoke about shooting the tough sex scenes she’s had to do, referring to the Big Little Lies storyline of her abusive husband, “I remember lying on the floor in the bathroom when we were doing the scenes in episode seven, and I wouldn’t get up between takes. I was just lying there, sort of broken and crying in half-torn underwear.”
Getting to the bottom of the sex scenes: vulnerability & authenticity
If you observe closely, the sex scenes in Normal People stand out because of how honestly they’re shot. They capture the innocence & messiness of the process – the act, the before, and the after, very meticulously. There’s no unrealistic, mind-blowing ease in the first time Marianne & Connell get together. No out-of-the-world expectations.
Instead, there’s a conversation, there’s consent, there’s an eagerness, and most characteristically, there’s an urgency in their consummation. Prior to the actual sex scene, Marianne was impatient & both of them were probably wondering if they’re good enough for each other. Self-doubt? Now that’s not something you’ll get to see in a lot of sex scenes.
In the later episodes, as Marianne grows, she has different sexual experiences. Not all of these experiences are pleasant. Whether she’s happy with her sexual experience is more often than not just a mirror to whether she’s happy in her real life. The cast had an intimacy expert guiding them on these scenes, and it shows!