When the Movie is BETTER Than the Book (Brooklyn by Colm Toibin)

When it comes to books and the movie counterparts, I have a pretty firm philosophy. I believe one should always read the book first. Throughout my life, this has led to some late night reading sessions - I clearly remember being in high school and devouring The Silence of the Lambs as quickly as humanly possible before a Friday night trip to the movies. And I have passed this philosophy on to my kids (or mandated it?) with the Harry Potter films: you don't read it, you don't see it!

And my other steadfast philosophy has been that the film usually: falls short of the book, can live up to it occasionally, and never surpasses the author's original work. The occasional films that I think live up to the books are definitely The Silence of the Lambs (the way they shot that ending sequence of Clarice on the wrong, but right, doorstep was JUST as chilling as the book), The Harry Potter films, The Martian, A Time to Kill, The Hunt for Red October, and Bridget Jones' Diary, to name a few.

I read Brooklyn earlier this year and kept meaning to check out the Oscar nominated film version, but never did. When my online book club chose it as our September pick to compare and contrast with the film, I finally sat down to watch.
Maybe it had to do with the fact that I was slightly underwhelmed by the novel, but the movie surpassed my expectations. I have always loved Saoirse Ronan (and have not so secretly harbored a love of her name), and she is just marvelous in this role. I honestly thought she breathed more life into the character than her paper counterpart, as did all of the supporting cast (especially Tony). Which I think is hard to do, because (more often than not) in the book we get to read all of the innermost thoughts of the character. 

When it comes to conveying a setting, for me, films actually have a slight advantage over written descriptions and I think this was definitely the case. Brooklyn and Ireland were standalone characters in the book and all of the crew behind the camera did an amazing job in this regard. The glimpses of everyday life during the 1950s in both settings were so evocative: the buildings, the dance halls, the stores, the beaches, the people, and the COSTUME DESIGN. Love love love. 

Lastly, I certainly don't mind an ambiguous ending to a book, but in the case where there is a CLEAR DECISION the main character is making and we don't get to be in on it? NO. And the movie delivered on this as well! An ending! A good one! 

Now I've been racking my brain to think of a film that I liked better than the book and I'm not coming up with much... Maybe The Lord of the Rings because, again, I didn't love the books (so slow! too long!) and Peter Jackson's films are some of the best of all time. Any recommendations? 


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