The protagonist of Conversations With Friends, Frances (Alison Oliver), is not someone who would get emotional quickly. We can say this because her guarded expressions are pretty apparent, the way she holds her tongue and deflects well-meaning questions with cool indifference. However, she keeps telling people she isn't like this and then being told by them that she is exactly like this. Even while having intercourse, she brushes it off when she cries, claiming it to be a meaningless reaction. While wiping away her tears, she insisted that they were not her real tears.
On the contrary, the weeping tells a different story. She has a great reservoir where she buries all her emotions, unacknowledged, unprocessed, and locked up, which come out in inappropriate, uncertain, and sometimes disastrous ways. Conversations With Friends shows Frances,' that has now come to an end, towards bringing together the disconnect between theory and practice, head and heart, with patience and an observant eye for every detail. However, at most times, it goes toward the same sense of reserve that its heroine does, ending up in a series that is graceful and sensitive but also too cool for its sound.
Brought about by the team behind Hulu's 2020 hit Normal People, including director Lenny Abrahamson, screenwriter Alice Birch, and source material author Sally Rooney, Conversations With Friends is based on another bookish, introverted young woman who goes through a life-changing romance. However, this time, it is Frances, a Dublin college student of a humble temper and modest means which performs feminist spoken-word poetry in her free time with Bobbi (Sasha Lane), her extraordinary extroverted and free-spirited best friend who was previously her ex-girlfriend.
In one of their performances, they come across Melissa (Girls'Jemima Kirke, perfectly cast) and befriend her. She is a 30something writer of some renown and soon blend-in into her older, chic social circle where her husband, Nick (Joe Alwyn), is also a part of the social circle. His reciprocated feeling for Frances soon changes into a love affair that makes her second-guess her relationship with the world surrounding her and herself.
What Do We Think?
Conversations With Friends is pretty to look at, in a calculated way that portrays the way characters look at each other earnestly while, at the same time, trying to look casual. The camera hardly seems to intrude but doesn't miss out on anything. It did not fail to capture Nick's glint off the wedding ring when he ran his hand through his hair nor France's impulsive act of fixing her spaghetti strap while being self-conscious when Nick addressed her in front of Melissa.
If Conversations With Friends stands out by taking the minor details of their interactions, it is to some extent less convincing at bringing about the warmth or heat passing underneath them. This is a problem of not having good chemistry. In Normal People, Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal) were so drawn toward each other that no force could stop them from pursuing the other. Although France's attraction does not seem as powerful as this one, there still exists a connection that consumes her to such a degree that at one point, she admits to him, "I don't think I thought about reality or consequences."
On the contrary, Oliver and Alwyn have small friction together. There is a slight affection between them and little of the desperation needed to move their story forward. Alwyn's baby-faced is of no help either that seems too young for Nick's role, easing off what the book had, as the exciting appeal of a more experienced and worldly lover.
Oliver and Lane seem to be better together, mainly when Conversations With Friends goes deeper into the long-lasting well of love between their characters. For quite some time, Frances and Bobbi's relationship was characterized by the distance between them, which grows when they spend some time together and exchange several emails.
All four lead characters share the same irony – devoted to the art of self-expression. They enjoy putting their thoughts into words while simultaneously shuddering at the prospect of what is going on in their minds when it matters the most.