Conversations with Friends

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What it’s about:

After performing on a spoken word stage, two young Dublin women get invited into the lives of a successful and glamorous married couple, and all of their relationships begin to get a lot more complicated, raising questions about just how “finite” and defined romantic love can be.

Names you might know:

The series was adapted from Irish author Sally Rooney’s debut novel, which was released before her bestseller Normal People.  It stars Jemima Kirke (Jessa in Girls) and Joe Alwyn (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and Taylor Swift’s longtime beau). Newcomer Alison Oliver takes the lead as Francis, and Sasha Lane (American Honey) plays Bobbi.

Why it’s worth your time:

At a time when open relationships and “ethical non-monogamy” have become hot topics, Conversations with Friends delves deep into the heads, the bedrooms, and the text threads of four people wrestling with new questions about the nature of their bonds.

Whether coupled, single, or in some combination of relationships, you are likely to feel this one. That is, if you have the patience. The series takes its time in the beginning, but with 12 quick half-hour episodes, it picks up steam and delivers the payoffs.

Like the adaptation of Normal People, the characters in Conversations can be riveting and relatable, simmering with conflicted emotions, deep, unspoken longing, and, of course, lust. The sex scenes are as artful and intimate as they are believable, and the vast majority of them include a sultry, vulnerable Joe Alwyn. Scruffy-handsome and sad-eyed, he plays Nick, a somewhat successful actor who’s been through some things. He’s also married—to a striking, well-known author, Melissa. But that doesn’t keep him from taking notice of Francis, a complicated college senior and talented poet, whom he meets when he and his wife catch one of her spoken-word shows.

Melissa wants to use some of what Francis wrote in her next book, and she invites her and Bobbi to a party at her house. Intense and often uneasy, Francis can be defiantly anti-establishment, refusing to contemplate turning her writing into a saleable commodity. Bobbi, on the other hand, is more carefree, a captivating African=American woman who’s not afraid to say what’s on her mind, even if it means wounding Francis.

But Francis is bi, Bobbi explains to their new friends, while she is only interested in women, and she pursues Melissa fearlessly at her party—even managing to get a kiss from her. This leaves Francis to wander off alone, until she finds Nick, stoned and hiding from the party. They’re an unlikely pairing, but there’s something under the surface drawing them to each other.

As new relationships unfold, the series draws you into all of the agony, ecstasy, and confusion, while focusing mostly on Francis’ new life as “the other woman.”  All the while, her friendship with Bobbi is still at the forefront of her life, forcing her to face all of her bottled up emotions at once.

“Monogamy is designed to serve the needs of men in patrilineal societies to pass off property to their genetic children,” Bobbi lectures their younger friends in front of Francis. “Commitment should be based on desire, choice and honesty.”

It’s a statement that hangs in the air throughout the series, leaving everyone—and the viewer—to ponder it all.

The takeaway:

While not as addictive as Normal People, Conversations with Friends brings the same level of emotional depth, romantic intrigue, and lust—with compelling and convincing leads.  You will be thinking about this one after it’s over.

Watch it with:

With all the questions it raises around infidelity and open relationships, and the blurry lines between friends and lovers, you might want to watch this one alone.  Unless it’s time for a “conversation.”

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