For every bestseller that makes it to the big screen, there are a number of novels whose adaptations can only be found in art house or independent theatres in major cities. These adaptions often fly under the radar and often receive mixed reviews from critics and audiences, but they’re worth a look. These six adaptations include works by major American and European authors as well as works considered difficult to transfer to the screen.
Adore (2013), based on the novella by the late Doris Lessing. Set along the lush Australian coast, the film follows two best friends (Naomi Watts and Robin Wright) who have affairs with each other’s sons. Critics found the tawdriness of the plot overshadowed the performances of the leads, though one reviewer’s assessment of it as “good trash” articulates its appeal.
As I Lay Dying (2013), based on the novel by William Faulkner. This 1930 novel has long been considered unfilmable, and critical reception was mixed. It tells the story of a family making a trip to bury Addie Bundred in Faulkner’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County. Directed (and starring) James Franco, along with Tim Blake Nelson and Danny McBride. Critics found this adaptation a valiant effort, though some wondered if it was another lark for Franco.
Broken (2013), based on the novel by Daniel Clay. Critics largely praised this British coming-of-age film, which follows a fragile young girl named Skunk, who is drawn into chaos from the violence that she sees in her cul-de-sac and her school. Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy are given top billing, though critics agree that the newcomer Eloise Laurence makes a strong impression as Skunk in her first acting role.
Midnight’s Children (2012), based on the novel by Salman Rushdie. Directed by Indian-born and Toronto-based Deepa Mehta, this film tells the sprawling tale of two children born and switched at birth within moments of each other in Bombay, just after India gains independence from Britain, and the lives they lead that were meant for the other. This adaptation requires patience – some found it an exhilerating, if exhausting, experience, while others found the length and complexity weighed it down.
Thérèse (2013), based on the novel by Francois Mauriac. Thérèse (Audrey Tautou) is a free spirit who finds herself in a unhappy marriage to controlling Bernard Desqueyroux (Gilles Dellouche), and she struggles break free from a life of repression. The final film from acclaimed French director Claude Miller, some lauded it for its understated beauty, while others found it to be a downer that had difficulty engaging viewers.
The Wall (2012), based on the novel by Marlen Haushofer. This German film stars Martina Gedeck as a woman who discovers she is cut off from the rest of the world by an invisible wall. This is both a philosophical meditation on solitude as well as a gripping tale of surviving in the wilderness, and critics and audiences alike responded with overwhelming praise.