Indeed, these brushstrokes of authenticity are alluring. I cast back to when Normal People was first released two years ago, dissecting the frenzy around these ‘graphic’ scenes with girlfriends over WhatsApp. “They’re realistic,” one posted in the chat. There’s the build-up, the taking off of underwear (again, a televisual rarity), grabbing condoms, consent-affirming dialogue, pre-and-postcoital laughter, lounging nude and happy-drowsy in bed together. It feels up close and personal and, above all, joyful, even in those flickering embers of awkwardness. The characters in Sally Rooney’s adaptations are so viscerally present in their bodies, and in synergy with someone else’s, it’s impossible not to be entranced by its magnetism.
Credit here goes to O’Brien’s physical storytelling. “I’m looking at the details, how body parts meander into each other, such as the spines moving together, pulling the hip towards a thigh [and] bringing the energy down to the pelvis during intercourse so that, anatomically, we believe them,” she says. “That allows us to stay more connected to the emotional journey.”
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