I love movies. I love movies almost as much as I love books and I’m not the sort of person to universally rank books above their film adaptations. Paper and film are such different mediums, I don’t even think they’re comparable (most of the time). Film lends a sensory element to a story that is hard to match with words on a page. Likewise, books offer freedom of imagination and immersive detail that you just can’t get with film. That is why I always look forward to watching the film adaptation of a book I love. Best case scenario, it’s an amazing match. Worst case, I put it out of my head and forget that two-hour fiasco ever happened.
2016 was not a great movie year for me. I didn’t watch nearly as many movies as I wanted, and many of them were lackluster at best. Even fewer were actually book adaptations. Still, between feature films and television series, there are five adaptations that I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Synopsis: Room is Emma Donoghue’s harrowing tale of survival and motherhood. It’s told from the perspective of five-year-old Jack, who has spent the entirety of his young life in an eleven-by-eleven foot room with his mother, or “Ma,” as he calls her. As the story unfolds we learn that Ma was kidnapped as a teenager and locked in her captor’s backyard shed. After seven years of staring at the same four walls, Ma plans a daring escape–and Jack is the key to breaking free.
My thoughts: Room is not an enjoyable film to watch. It wasn’t an enjoyable book to read either, but it is brilliant, suspenseful, and inspiring. It deeply explores the bond between mother and child, and tests its strength in the most desperate of circumstances. Brie Larson is exceptional in her role as Ma and breakout child actor Jacob Tremblay is absolutely amazing as Jack. This is a very faithful adaptation and the script manages to capture Jack’s voice and perspective in a way I didn’t think possible on film. Room may be difficult to stomach, but it’s well worth it in the end.
4. Jason Bourne
I haven’t read any of Robert Ludlum’s books, but I’m guessing the latest Bourne flick isn’t a direct adaptation. Nevertheless, I’m including it in this list because Bourne is such a beloved book character.
Synopsis: Jason Bourne begins with Jason living off the grid in some far-flung Eastern European country. Soon he is pulled back into the world of spies and intrigue when Nicky Parsons uncovers some new information about Bourne’s past while hacking into the CIA database on behalf of a Julian Assange-like character. The CIA discovers the leak and tracks Parsons to Bourne. Of course they assume Bourne is working with Parsons and decide to take him out…again. Bourne evades them (surprise, surprise), learns the truth about his past, uncovers more corruption in the agency, and has at least one spectacular car chase along the way.
My thoughts: This latest installment in the Bourne franchise is, admittedly, not on par with the first three. The plot is a bit too reminiscent of The Bourne Supremacy, the action sequences have been Hollywoodized to death, and I have a very hard time believing that Bourne is this healthy after years of bloody fights, bullet wounds, and catastrophic car crashes. Nevertheless, it’s a fun ride and it ties up some loose ends concerning Bourne’s past. As long as Bourne movies with Matt Damon are made, I will watch them.
3. The Revenant
The Revenant is based on the 2015 novel by Michael Punke. It’s a grizzly revenge story set on the Western frontier.
Synopsis: The year is 1823 and Hugh Glass is an expert tracker working with his son for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. Inches from death and unable to travel after being mauled by a bear, two men from his company and his son are left behind to tend to him before he dies. One of the men, a troublemaker who seeks to undermine Glass at every turn, kills his son and tricks the other company member into thinking that Glass died while he was out collecting firewood. They abandon Glass, who survives against all odds and pursues the murderer across the savage frontier.
My thoughts: I don’t usually go in for revenge stories, but I LOVE a good wilderness survival tale and this one is aces. The acting and cinematography are brilliant, and it kept me glued to my seat throughout.My Top 10 Favorite Film Adaptations of 2016 >>Click To Tweet
Synopsis: 11.22.63 is a miniseries adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name. The story follows high school teacher Jake Epping as he travels back in time to stop JFK’s assassination.
My thoughts: Let me just say that I don’t really like James Franco and I rarely enjoy films that he is in, but this one blew my socks off. Franco is absolutely charming and though the plot is not without holes, it wraps up neatly at the end. If you’re in the mood for a good time travel flick, wait for the weekend and binge-watch this.
The Durrells in Corfu is a recent BBC Masterpiece series based on a trilogy of memoirs by naturalist Gerald Durrell. I haven’t read the books, but from what I understand it’s a very loose adaptation.
Synopsis: Following the death of the family patriarch, the Durrell family isn’t doing so well. Matriarch Louisa struggles to wrangle her unruly children while overindulging in the bottle. Eldest son Larry is trying to launch a career as an author, but has a habit of slacking off on just about everything else. Middle son Leslie is unhappy and has an unhealthy obsession with guns. Daughter Margo isn’t the brightest bulb in the box and is even lazier than her elder brothers. And then of course there’s Gerry, a sensitive young boy who is bullied at school by his teachers for being different.
Louisa finally decides that a change is in order and the Durrells pack up and leave dreary old England for the sunny isle of Corfu, just off the coast of Greece and Albania. They are practically destitute, but soon they meet Spiros, a resourceful taxi driver who seems to know everyone on the island, and other local characters who help them settle into life in this strange and beautiful new land.
My thoughts: I had no idea what to expect when I started watching this show; I hadn’t even seen any previews. I was totally enthralled from the very first episode. It’s charming, funny, and heartwarming without resorting to cheesy tropes. If I’d known what it was about, I might not have watched it. Normally I don’t go in for dramedies about dysfunctional families, but this one works. Some of the characters (the children in particular) aren’t that likable in the beginning, but for all their flaws, they really grow on you, and until they do, wonderful characters like Louisa and Spiros will keep you watching. I can’t recommend this show highly enough.
What were your favorite film adaptations of 2016?