Over and over again this happens: I see an intriguing book-based film trailer and hurry to read the book before seeing the movie, but then I like book so much that I never bother seeing the movie. Rarely do movies capture the nuances and subplots that make books so rich and satisfying. I'm especially disappointed with nonfiction adaptations--so much of the good information in the book never makes it to the screen (and probably shouldn't for storytelling purposes). Oh, The Lady In Gold, the book. Sigh.
So I never bothered to see Room. The book was SO clever--faithfully maintaining the POV of a five-year-old boy! Clever. Clever. Clever.
But then I found myself having seen 6 of the 8 nominees for this year's Best Picture Oscar. Our great indie theater happened to be showing both Brooklyn and Room, so a double-feature proved irresistible, despite my reservations about Room. The young actor supposedly did a great job…so...but the book was SO clever!
Even though I knew the entire plot, I found myself on the edge of my seat, caught up in intensity and emotion. I hadn't felt that way while reading the book. Only the mother's POV could deliver that kind of emotion--a mother's drive to protect, the heartbreak of losing her own childhood... The boy's voice came through in the movie too. Yet the movie, released from the constraints of a child's POV, also captured the dynamic relationship between the mother and son. I left the theater emotionally exhausted, and I couldn't stop thinking about that young mother.
I also couldn't stop thinking about how the book lost too much by being clever. That's a real danger for us writers, isn't it? We focus on coming up with the next BIG IDEA without wondering if the truth in the story will suffer. Maybe the most clever way to tell a story isn't always the best way?
Room the movie wins this battle. I hope it brings home some Oscar statues this Sunday!