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Recommended: Conversations with Friends on Hulu

Hulu's new Sally Rooney adaptation about a love quadrangle burns with emotions kept just under the surface.
  • Joe Alwyn and Alison Oliver in Conversations with Friends (Photo: Enda Bowe/Hulu)
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    Conversations with Friends | Hulu
    12-Episode Limited Series (Drama) | TV-MA

    What's Conversations with Friends About?

    When shy college student Frances and her best friend Bobbi befriend a married couple, they embark upon a messy love quadrangle that forces them to confront their own vulnerabilities.

    Who's involved?

    • Newcomer Alison Oliver plays Frances, an introverted, 21-year-old college student who begins an affair with an older man.
    • Joe Alwyn (The Favourite) is Nick Conway, a 30-something actor who recognizes a kindred spirit in Frances.
    • Sasha Lane (American Honey, Loki) plays the brash and outspoken Bobbi, Frances’ best friend and ex-girlfriend.
    • Jemima Kirke (Girls, Sex Education) plays Melissa Baines, a respected writer who grows closer to Bobbi and, by extension, Frances.
    • Author Sally Rooney serves as an executive producer on the series, which is based on her 2017 debut novel of the same name.
    • Director Lenny Abrahamson (Room), co-writer Alice Birch, and most of the creative team also worked on Normal People, based on Sally Rooney’s second novel.

    Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

    Let’s get this out of the way: Conversations with Friends is a very different series than Normal People. Though both are adapted from Sally Rooney novels, Conversations with Friends takes a much slower, quieter approach to its storytelling, and it seems unlikely that its stars, despite their talent, will be hailed as sex symbols, as Paul Mescal was in Spring 2020. This isn’t to say that Conversations with Friends is worse than Normal People; just that it’s much more sedate and contemplative, and viewers would do well to check their desire to compare the two.

    Taken on its own, Conversations with Friends represents an exciting new addition to Hulu’s Rooney-verse. The 12-episode series is told primarily from the perspective of Frances, a painfully shy Trinity College student who struggles to give voice to her inner emotions. Frances would be content to perform spoken-word poetry with Bobbi, her former lover and best friend, and live out her communist ideals, but when the two are noticed by successful 30-something essayist Melissa, Frances is pulled into her complicated marriage to Nick, a working actor. Frances and Nick bond over feeling like supporting characters in their respective relationships, and soon begin a full-blown affair.

    Alison Oliver's powerful performance brings Frances’ internal struggle to life on screen. The drama marks Oliver's first film or television role, but you’d never know it from her purposely enigmatic energy, which only intensifies when she’s coupled with Alwyn. Their chemistry simmers beneath the surface of every scene, and for many viewers (especially Taylor Swift fans), it’s likely to carry them through the series’ more subdued moments.

    As the other half of the love quadrangle, Bobbi and Melissa have less to do, but especially in later episodes, when the power balance between Frances and Bobbi shifts, Sasha Lane makes the most of her screen time. The American Honey star nails the subtle shades of Bobbi’s persona, from her literary clout chasing to her surprising codependence, and her arc epitomizes the questions about love — in all its forms — that lie at the heart of the series.

    Pairs well with

    • Normal People (Hulu), the first, but far less understated, Rooney adaptation.
    • High Fidelity (Hulu), Zoë Kravitz’s canceled-too-soon series offered another unique perspective on modern romance.
    • Fleabag (Prime Video), the Emmy-winning favorite that has a lot to say about forbidden attraction.

  • Conversations with Friends
    Complete first season drops on Hulu Sunday May 15, 2022.
    Created by: Alice Birch. Based on the book by Sally Rooney.
    Starring: Alison Oliver, Joe Alwyn, Sasha Lane, and Jemima Kirke.
    Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson .
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    TOPICS: Conversations with Friends, Hulu, Alice Birch, Alison Oliver, Jemima Kirke, Joe Alwyn, Lenny Abrahamson , Sasha Lane