Directed by relative newcomer Lynne Ramsay, the film adaptation has won numerous 5* critic ratings, was dubbed Best Film at the London Film Festival and has received praise from audiences the world over. It has been dubbed the film of Tilda Swinton's career and even the poster has a quote from the book's author Lionel Schriver saying "A brilliant adaptation of my novel". This is a lot of hype to live up to when the film has only been out for a week. So does it live up to the hype?
Well yes and no...
All the acting is flawless. Tilda Swinton is stunning as Eva, both as the young mother struggling to connect with her son and post Thursday mother dealing with the backlash and still finding time to visit her teenage son in jail. Ezra Miller is delightfully menacing as Kevin. He manages to be both charming and sinister, capturing with apparent ease the stiff antagonistic relationship with mum Eva in perfect parallel with the easy, dutiful son to dad Franklin (John C. Reilly).
Lynne Ramsay and co have done the absolute best possible adaptation of the book. And therein lies the issue. The book does not lend itself to film adaptations. As the entire book is written in letter format, the reader takes what is said with a pinch of salt. This is, after all, Eva's perception. She insists she spotted things, warning signs so to speak, about Kevin and his behaviour which Franklin disagreed with. But, of course, this is all with hindsight. As she is writing the letters post-Thursday it is easy to see that her version of events may be slightly misleading. How much is she exaggerating or imagining something that never actually happened? You never know. This is, after all, her point of view - not Kevin's and not Franklin's. This ambiguity is what makes the book such perfect literature. Nothing is spelled out for the reader, it is all open to interpretation. In the film, there is no ambiguity. It is still Eva's point of view but with no narrator-style monologue or reference to the letter-writing style of the book, it appears more as fact than opinion.
Also, some of my favourite parts of the book were the scenes in jail where Eva and Kevin talk. The dialogue was so fantastically dry after Eva realises that asking "How are they treating you" and "Are you eating OK" just wasn't relevant any more. She dares to ask questions she couldn't before Thursday. It revealed everything and nothing about their relationship and was gripping from start to finish. I was really looking forward to seeing this on the big screen. Sadly, there is not a lot of this in the film. There are visits but normally they involve the two sitting in silence until visiting hours are over.
4/5 FOBLES - film
5/5 FOBLES - book