Star Rating:

Conversations with Friends

Showing On: RTE One

Release Date: Wednesday 18th May 2022

Genre(s): Drama

The TV adaption of Sally Rooney's first book 'Conversations with Friends' airs on RTÉ one next Wednesday the 18th of May. And it's going to be an unequivocal hit.

"Off you fuck", Bobbi (Sasha Lane) softly commands Frances (Alison Oliver), in the most youthfully Irish way. It seems obvious that cursing is brand new to her. A freedom she's discovered in college.

A drum pounds with a hissing snare; bam-bam-bam, bam-bam-bam. We're head-nodding, foot-tapping — CMAT tells us "It's the Marian Keynes of it all" and we're hooked.

Frances traces Dublin on foot; the old bank across from Trinity, that restaurant on Marlborough Street that Dubliners will know hasn't been there since before the pandemic, and her apartment above 'Hodma' on Hardwicke Street.

Dublin buses whiz behind Frances as she transports herself from scene to scene, we watch her text, ignoring the views from the DART window of the salty, lapping sea, and we hear the alarming, native beep of the city crosswalks. And we're endeared by it all (yes, seriously).

It just feels gorgeously familiar. Not only down to the intimacy with our Capital city, but in the delicate details about our country too — how we know why the girls are wearing coats as they leave the house even though a yellow streak of sunshine pierces through the pane in the front door.

We feel the bone-chill out at Seapoint when the girls go swimming with Melissa (Jemima Kirke) even though there's not a cloud in the sky. They don't need to say it was Baltic for us to know the immersion will be on at home.

For all we know about the lives they're living in the context of place, the story is an original, something we've never seen before.

Sure, we've lived in the same kind of dark, cold apartments with blankets on the back of every seat. Outdoor censor lights are as common as sheep to us out in the countryside.

But even for those who read the book, we're so present with the characters onscreen that we can't predict what's coming next. (Warning, spoilers ahead.)

Suddenly, Frances leans in to kiss Nick (Joe Alwyn) at his wife's birthday party. Bobbi tells us she and Melissa also shared a kiss and we didn't see it coming until there she is, right in front of us, all bravado and nonchalance.

And what's lovely about all that drama is that there was no need for a "coming out" preamble. Sexuality is secondary to the love parallelogram that the ensemble cast gets caught up in.

Race is not a story line in this series either, which is so refreshing and reflective of the multi-cultural Ireland we live in today.

Director Lenny Abrahamson praised Rooney's joyous, celebratory style of writing that reflects the nuanced lives of people whose world doesn't just revolve around who they love or their skin colour. He called for more of that kind of story telling.

Of course, a good story can only go so far and the cast took a really long time to pin down. They work very much as an ensemble, there's no out and out main character. Sure, the story does revolve around Frances' world, but Alison needs Sasha, Joe, and Jemima, who all need each other too.

The production feels so perfect that there's a certain fragility to it, crafted in a way that even the slightest bump could ruin the magic; a hammy scene, a bad Irish accent (Joe gets a pass from us), even down to a poorly cast parent — Tommy Tiernan as Frances' father runs in such harmony with the story.

But everything is in it's place. We absolutely love this and cannot flaw it. It's inspiring and romantic even without the love stories. Five stars.

'Conversations with Friends' airs on RTÉ one and the RTÉ player on Wednesday the 18th of May at 9.35 pm.