Conversations With Friends review roundup: Critics deliver verdict on ‘watered-down’ Sally Rooney series

BBC series follows on from the success of 2020’s ‘Normal People’

Conversations with Friends trailer

The first reviews for the Sally Rooney adaptation Conversations With Friends have arrived.

Following on from the success of the BBC’s 2020 adaptation of Normal People, another Rooney novel, Conversations With Friends, follows four young adults in Dublin and their intersecting romantic lives.

American Honey’s Sasha Lane stars alongside Joe Alwyn (The Favourite), Jemima Kirke (Girls) and newcomer Alison Oliver.

In a two-star review for The Independent, Nick Hilton wrote: “Though it is undoubtedly slow, solipsistic, and self-satisfied, the show has an ambient appeal. It is television designed to be watched out of the corner of your eye while scrolling through Instagram, peering in at strangers on two screens simultaneously.

“And if the prospect of watching the lives of a group of rather entitled millennials unravel at a pace closer to Captain Tom than Mo Farah doesn’t excite you, there are plenty of close-ups of beautiful people kissing to keep you distracted.”

Of Alwyn’s accent work, Hilton wrote that the actor “affects an Irish lilt so subtle as to be almost undetectable”.

The Evening Standard was similarly critical, writing that Alywin was the “weak link” of the series and that his Irish accent was “not very good”.

In a three-star review, Phoebe Luckhurst described the series as a “watered-down” version of Rooney’s novel.

“Alwyn and Oliver’s chemistry is simply too awkward to believe they’re actually into each other,” she wrote. “Theirs is a cool flame without that molten core, and without the urgency, you do find yourself wondering what the point of it all is.

“Indeed, in this four-hander, Alwyn’s Nick is the weak link: he feels just a little too blank, a strong and silent type who doesn’t quite convince.”

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The Telegraph, however, awarded the series five stars. Marianka Swain wrote: “Although the series isn’t as overt as Rooney’s novel in questioning conventional social structures, from monogamous relationships to capitalism, the drama does ask whether we’re being asked to squeeze ourselves into unrealistic roles.

Conversations with Friends

“That provocation is balanced with the dreamy, golden-hued cinematography, particularly during the group’s idyllic holiday to Croatia, which makes this an utter joy to watch, as well as an audacious conversation-starter.”

The Irish Times’ Ed Power also gave the show a glowing review, descibing it as “superior” to Normal People.

“It feels more substantial than Normal People,” he wrote. “Rooney fans will lap it up. For everyone else, the wow factor of a prestige television take on Dublin – albeit empty and lockdown-grim – is sure to bring is own pleasures too.”

However, he too was critical of Alwyn’s performance, writing: “Alwyn now further blots his copybook with a wonky accent that, much like the soccer career of Jack Grealish, starts Irish and ends up English. Rogue brogue aside, his lack of charisma is a void at the heart of Conversations With Friends.”

The series arrives on BBC iPlayer in full on 15 May.

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