What to watch | Normal People explores first love, Sia's directorial debut and a local horror movie

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Connell (Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar-­Jones) struggle  with their fragile love in Normal People. (PHOTO: BBC THREE)
Connell (Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar-­Jones) struggle with their fragile love in Normal People. (PHOTO: BBC THREE)

Normal People *****

Romantic drama. With Daisy Edgar-­Jones, Paul Mescal and Desmond Eastwood.

When Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People was published in 2018, it quickly became one of those books recommended by friends and book clubs. 

People either loved or hated the relationship between Marianne (Edgar-Jones from War of the Worlds) and Connell (Mescal), two young people from different backgrounds who live in the same small Irish town. Not everyone has patience with the gossamer-­thin lines of tension being explored between the pair, or the atmospheric nature of the novel, in which as much is conveyed with silence as with dialogue.

The TV adaptation is finally available in SA and it’s faithful to the book, which is good news for fans. In fact, it seems people love the series more than the novel, as the choice of actors and the delicate approach to storytelling precisely echo the elements that made the book so memorable. 

The mini-series also does a better job of illustrating the context of the story – the Irish setting and class differences – than the novel, which assumed its readers understood how this society functioned.

The 30-minute episodes can easily be binged in an afternoon, but you’ll find you might have to pause to catch a breath or to finish crying. 

It tears your heart to shreds precisely because you can recognise your own vulnerability in Connell and Marianne’s fragile love. And also perhaps because if you meet the right person, you can save each other in so many ways. 



Music ** 1/2

 Kate Hudson, Maddie Ziegler, Music
Maddie Ziegler (left) and Kate Hudson in Music. (PHOTO: Hanway Films)

Musical drama. Zu (Kate Hudson) is a recovering alcoholic who discovers she’s been appointed sole guardian of her half-sister, Music (Maddie Ziegler), who has autism.

While Zu struggles to maintain her sobriety, the sisters form a strong bond and Zu must decide whether she can leave her chaotic ways behind to become the constant presence Music needs to feel happy and safe. 

Australian pop star Sia’s songwriting and music-video directing have certainly prepared her for her directorial debut. Coupled with its uplifting soundtrack, which she wrote, the film is a visual feast thanks to its musical dreamscapes that depict Music’s experience of the world. The flights of fancy are reminiscent of but less refined than those found in movies such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and (500) Days of Summer (2009). 

The film earned two Golden Globe nominations, but there are undeniably problematic elements because of its tone-deaf handling of difficult themes such as disability, addiction and familial trauma. 

It’s also rightly been criticised for casting a neurotypical actor to play a non-verbal person with autism. Regrettable stereotypes, misrepresentation of people with disabilities and an idealised portrayal of a caring community unfortunately also lead to an in­fantilising depiction of people with autism.


2021. 107 MIN. 13. AVAILABLE ON APPLE TV+.

8 ****

Keita Luna, Tshamano Sebe, 8
Keita Luna and Tshamano Sebe in 8. (PHOTO: Netflix)

Local horror. In 1977, William Ziel (Garth Breytenbach) moves his wife, Sarah (Inge Beckmann), and orphaned niece, Mary (Keita Luna), to a farm that he inherited from his estranged father near the fictional town of Hemel op Aarde. 

Sarah dislikes the place and starts having nightmares after they move in. Strange things also start happening in the house . . . 

While searching for leaves for her silkworms in the nearby woods, Mary crosses paths with Lazarus (Tshamano Sebe), who knows the farm and worked for William’s father for many years. He introduces ­himself to the new residents, but he doesn’t have good intentions. And what he’s hiding in the bag on his back will make you shudder. 

This movie has all the elements needed for a good horror film, such as the shock factor, as you never know what’s coming next or when Lazarus will strike. The production design is impressive and makes you proud that a film of such quality is South African-made. Be warned: 8 will have you on the edge of your seat and biting your nails. A must-watch.



A: All ages   D: Drugs   H: Horror   L: Language   N: Nudity   P: Prejudice   PG: Parental guidance S: Sex  V: Violence

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