"I think we're at that weird age where life can change a lot from small decisions," realise the young lovers at the heart of Irish author Sally Rooney's best-selling novel 'Normal People' (2018).
And the electricity of that awkward, self-conscious jeopardy keeps the tension humming through director Lenny Abrahamson's 12-part adaptation for the BBC.
It's the tale of skinny, wealthy social outcast Marianne and popular, handsome, working-class Connell, star of the football team.
Connell's mum cleans Marianne's mum's house. Their external differences are overridden by mutual attraction and their equal, piercing intelligence.
The story follows the power-shifts in their relationship as they move from school in Co Sligo to Trinity College, Dublin.
Coming hot on the heels of Rooney's witty, sexually charged debut, 'Conversations with Friends', the sleeker, sharper 'Normal People' was longlisted for the Booker Prize before it was even published.
Abrahamson read the proofs and could immediately "picture it as a groundbreaking and beautiful series".
Talking from his home, the 52-year-old says he was drawn in by "the truthfulness of the characters".
He says: "In the popular understanding of what makes drama interesting, plots are meant to be driven by secrets, by what we hide or don't say. But actually, watching intimate honesty up close, on screen, is just as thrilling and engaging. They find themselves through what they can say to each other."
While this is definitely one of the thrills of Rooney's prose, I think it's also one of the triumphs of her generation. Millennials may sell false visual images of themselves on social media, but whenever I catch them in conversation I notice they are more frank, self-aware and vulnerable than I was in my late teens and early 20s. They are often better active listeners, asking direct questions with less inhibited curiosity than their parents.
"They're remarkably sophisticated in comparison to how I remember myself at that age," agrees Abrahamson.
"Watching ['Normal People's lead actors] chat to each other, I clocked an openness and awareness of other people's emotional needs. I think it's something we had, but would have been afraid to express. My kids - aged nine and 11 - find it completely bizarre that anybody would have a problem with another person's preferred sexual orientation, gender or pronoun."
On screen, newcomers Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal play the leads with hair-raising acuity and erotic charge.
A friend recently told me she was struggling to find a good example of on-screen consent to show her teenage daughters. "I want something properly awkward and emotional and sexy, where the right stuff is said and nothing sounds like it came from a government curriculum or from a Hollywood fantasy," she told me.
I can now tell her that romantic-but-real scene is to be found in 'Normal People'.
"I'm so glad you liked it," says Abrahamson. "Sally wrote it so well. It's so true to both characters. I didn't want to do that thing where people are talking in a film, then a look passes between them and, next shot, they're making love. As if sex was going for a run! I wanted to show how amazing, how wonderful it can be to fall in love with somebody and have sex with them. I'd like my kids to watch this when they're of age. I'd like them to know: this is important."
Both Rooney and Abrahamson won the same scholarship to Trinity College that the characters land.
"And even though I was there 25 years before her," says Abrahamson, "I think we had a similar experience. I was there for a long time because I started out studying physics and then changed to philosophy. I could feel echoes of my college experience in both Marianne and Connell's journeys through the place. Even though I come from a middle-class Dublin family, I remember feeling slightly overwhelmed, dwarfed by the grandeur and expectations of the place. Like Connell, I knew that my academic ability was my ticket in, but I wasn't sure of myself socially."
Although Marianne's character - the brainy, oddball duckling girl who achieves swanlike popularity after school - is a stereotype of teen drama, Edgar-Jones brings her a refreshing, naturalistic nuance. Mescal's Connell is a more unusual character. "If he were an ordinary kid, he'd probably be an outsider," says Abrahamson. "But because he's beautiful and sporty and clever, he finds himself at the centre of a high-status group. He isn't shy in an obvious way. He's powerful. People crave his approval and attention. But there's a tremendous vulnerability and uncertainty in him."
You could imagine the book working equally well if the nerd were a boy and the jock a girl. Gender simply isn't a chip in the game. The currencies are class, intelligence, appearance, career and money. Abrahamson likes this aspect of the story. "Beyond those currencies is a connection between two inexperienced teenagers. That connection means different things to them at different times. But they pivot around it entirely," he says.
With films 'Room' (2015) and 'The Little Stranger' (2018) to his name, he has now directed the work of three female novelists: Emma Donoghue and Sarah Waters, as well as Sally Rooney. "That was never a conscious decision," he says. "Those are just the books I have responded to. But I will say I was more conscious this time about finding a gender balance in the crew.
"There are a lot of sex scenes and, 10 years ago, a shoot was very male. You'd have a male director, male assistant director, male sound department, male cinematographer, all looking at a woman naked with a man. I've never been a traditional shouty male director anyway, but this time I made sure Daisy wasn't the only woman in the room."
Does Abrahamson think that his background in philosophy draws him closer to female writers than other male directors? I've always thought that the inherently unjust social structures make natural philosophers of women because we are constantly aware that the assumptions made about our gender don't actually apply to us.
"Absolutely," he laughs. "There's nothing like being at the wrong end of other people's assumptions to enable people to think outside of the dominant narratives. To see around things, intellectually. The female novelists I've been drawn to all push against conventional ideas - which is precisely what I learnt from philosophy," he says. "In fact, being a filmmaker is like that, too. We all participate in the 'scenes' of our lives. As stakeholders, we don't have the luxury of disinterest. But, as a filmmaker, you stand outside, walk around, look underneath those scenes and ask questions. It's continual learning.
"And I learnt, from this series, that conflict isn't what makes people interesting. Watching the depth of understanding and transformation that can come from agreement was incredibly beautiful." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
'Normal People' starts on RTÉ 1 on Tuesday April 28