Conversations with Friends
Based on the 2017 debut novel by Normal People author Sally Rooney, Conversations with Friends follows two Dublin university students, Frances and Bobbi, who become involved with an older couple in the highbrow literary scene. Like Normal People, Conversions with Friends is an understated exploration of awkwardness, pretentiousness and a lack of communication in relationships.
Unlike Normal People, the characters in Conversations with Friends don’t have much, well, character. No one seems to display – or experience – emotions beyond a vague sense of melancholy and slight amusement. It’s not that the performances are poor, there just isn’t much to act. The relationship between Frances (Alison Oliver) and Nick (Joe Alwyn) seems to be based entirely on awkwardness and not being very good at parties – not a bad basis for a relationship, but it’s hard to see why they like each other when they have no obvious chemistry. There isn’t much buildup to their relationship at all, and neither of them seems particularly bothered about the other outside of admittedly well executed and believably passionate sex scenes.
Everyone in Conversations with Friends is insufferably pretentious and it’s difficult to imagine having an enjoyable evening with any of them. Frances is rather unreadable as a character; she doesn’t appear to have much of a moral compass (which wouldn’t be a bad thing if it was explored), or any notable qualities beyond being quiet, bookish and rather cold. Her best friend and former girlfriend, Bobbi (Sasha Lane), has more presence as a character, but she feels quite two-dimensional. Her dynamic with Frances is fairly problematic – she is frequently rude to her and her friends – so it’s hard to root for them but there also isn’t enough to set the red flags flying.
The soundtrack is a nice blend of folk and moodiness, although sometimes it seems the songs are trying to inject emotion into otherwise pale scenes. The background stories around Frances’s family are interesting and have a depth that the rest of the production lacks.
Conversations with Friends is definitely watchable and one does want to know how it ends, but it’s hard to invest in characters who are neither complicated enough to love nor interesting enough to hate.
Conversations with Friends is released on 15th May 2022.
Watch the trailer for Conversations with Friends here: