Literary Adaptations: What to Watch?

Previously we, at Daastan recommended a list of books perfect for fall- and now we are moving on to literary adaptations on the big and small screens that you can stream right now. Each adaptation is as different as the one before- there is no thematic criteria to them. However, they all have one thing in common: the time spent watching them, will be time well spent. 

There is something inherently comforting about adaptations. They are familiar enough to spark recognition, and just different enough to make us want to know more. The following recommendations stayed true to the source in that they made the necessary adjustments suited to the change in mediums, without losing the spirit of the text.

1. Normal People (2020)

Based on: Normal People by Sally Rooney (2018)
Stream on: BBC 3 or Hulu 

From the intimate close up, to the nostalgic soundtracks, to the tender chemistry- this adaptation gets everything right. Starring Paul Mescal as Connell and Daisy Edgar-Jones as Marianne, Normal People is a 12 part series. As far as literary adaptations go, it is a wonderful companion to the original book.

The muted brilliance of the cinematography captures the interiority of the characters, filling out their stories with vivid human emotions. It follows Connell and Marianne from high school to university, as they grapple with complex emotions of love, friendship and companionship. The audience is able to see them grow, prosper and struggle, try to find their paths in a vast and confusing world. It is a realistic depiction of what it means to find someone who knows you, unlike anyone else. There are strands of class commentary that cannot be missed, which adds the depth that is needed to alleviate a mundane love story, to a memorable love story. A story that leaves you thinking about it, long after it ends.

2. My Brilliant Friend (2018- )

Based on: The Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante (2012-15)
Stream on: HBO

Named after the first book of the series, My Brilliant Friend captures the same nostalgic uncertainty of childhood amidst hazy Italian summers, that have created a massive fan following for the quartet. With 2 seasons out as of now, each with 8 episodes- it is a perfect show for binging. 

Often with literary adaptations, transitions from childhood to youth to adulthood seem forced- the casting not quite allowing us to feel like we are following the journey of singular characters. In this department, My Brilliant Friend excels. With astonishingly accurate casting it follows two friends growing up in a poor neighbourhood at the outskirts of Naples in the 1950s. Elisa Del Genio and Margherita Mazzucco are casted as Elena, first as a child then as a teenager. Ludovica Nasti and Gaia Girace are casted as Raffaella “Lila”.

Flitting between the present and the past, the plot unfolds as Lenu narrates the stories of her past. As well as all the converging tales of class, culture, patriarchy and language that led to the creation of each character.


3. Little Women (2019)

Based on: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868-1869)
Stream on: Amazon Prime, HBO Max

There are some names that keep coming up when talking about literary adaptations. Little Women is one of them. With countless adaptations on the big and small screens, the Greta Gerwig directed big screen adaptation takes the cake for an adaptation that not only stays true to the spirit, but adds to it. 

With an ensemble cast of Saiorsie Ronan as Jo, Florence Pugh as Amy, Emma Watson as Meg and Eliza Scanlen as Meg, the March sisters are a delight to follow on the screen. Timothee Chalamet as Laurie is precisely what brings a delicate balance to the movie. It is a stroke of cinematic genius, with the warm toned scenes of the past brimming with the unadulterated happiness of childhood and the blue toned scenes bringing us into adulthood- and a world not so perfect.

4. Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Based on: Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman (2007)
Stream on: Netflix

Directed by Luca Guadagnino, this movie is a warm and tender journey that breaks and mends your heart simultaneously. It is a coming-of-age drama, starring Timothee Chalamet as Elio and Armie Hammer as Oliver. This movie is the gut wrenchingly sweet romance against an Italian summer that we all need. It captures the whirlwind of teenage emotions with subtlety and nuance. The simplicity and pureness of it is what makes it such a great watch.

We hope that these movie adaptations live up to their textual counterparts for you as well, if you choose to view them! Keep an eye out for more recommendations by Daastan. We hope that they are as wonderful for you, as they are for us.

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