There are very few movies which live up to the book its based on. This one is one of them. Probably because the author was involved in the whole process, the movie captures almost everything that was in his book. For me, this is probably the best movie of 2010. Maybe because it does not seek much attention, it is not brash or loud. It is a very quiet movie, just like the book was. I have already written about the book and why I like it so much, so let me talk about how the movie turns out.
The screenplay is absolutely brilliant. Some elements from the book have been subtly altered, and some have been entirely left out, but it has been done so in a way such that the flow is never hampered. This is not easy to do, since the the movie goes back and forth like the book, narrated by Kathy H. The narration itself is quiet, but each word resonates ever so deeply.
Mark Romanek has done a great job with the cinematography. He has deftly given swathes of colour, warmth and emotion to a movie whose content and context is so bleak. The lights, the sounds, the loneliness, the words spoken and unspoken, everything adds to the atmosphere of the movie to make it a poignant watch.
And finally, the acting. Much as I like Keira Knightley, I have never thought much of her as an actor. But in this movie she excels. The role of Ruth, beautiful, sharp Ruth is divided between her and newcomer Ella Purnell, who plays a younger Ruth in Hailsham. Keira Knightley is a far cry from her usual glamorous self. This role asks for an edginess, the rawness of a person whose life falls apart bit by bit, and she is all Ruth is. Probably her best performance till date.
Andrew Garfield was also a new name to me. As the grown up Tommy who has managed to check his bouts of rage, and then to the Tommy in the final stages as life finally overcomes him. His happiness, his pain, his anger, his acceptance, Andrew Garfield has brought to life all the contrasts that are Tommy.
And finally, Carey Mulligan as Kathy. I had seen her just once before in a small role on TV which I had absolutely loved. And here, she steals the show. The director realises the full potential of the character and the actor playing it and focuses a lot on her. In many ways, that is strange since Kathy is the quietest in the trio. But the empathy and the sadness that one sees in her eyes all through, as well as her smile in lighter moments, she speaks volumes through her expressions. Her voice and her eyes, every word she says, that is what keeps this movie together, that is what makes it so beautiful.
This is the sort of movie which could have easily gone so wrong. But thankfully, it gets almost everything right.