Day: September 9, 2008

This Booker Prize winning book by Graham Swift tells of four men on a day trip to scatter their friend’s ashes to the sea. The chapters are short and the narratives switches with each chapter. Most are told by Ray, the closest friend of the dead man Jack Dodds. There are numerous flashbacks revealing the lives of all the men and a couple of others in their lives. At first the book reminded me in a slightly of Trainspotting, the writing was colloquial but far more intelligible. They also share the a similar theme of friendship and endurance over time. As I read it, it became much more. The dialogue is quite sharp and well written; Swift has a knack for characterisation. The language and changing perspectives makes it evocative. I sometimes managed to feel the bitterness and the anger that some of the characters do when they narrate. It is very English; all the characters have a working class background and there is something very stylistic and true about the way he writes about their livelihood. If anything, it feels sincere even if real working class Londoners do not all the issues these characters did. I liked the book for the most part, but it got bit depressing the further you went. The flashbacks reveal missed opportunities, unsaid things, wrong choices, bad luck, and estranged relationships. The ending, as with life, is open ended. Not a very uplifting read, but Swift does have a good voice throughout the story.

As with the book, this is not exactly an exciting film, it has a slow languid pace, but is actually decently adapted. I thought the script made the efforts to really weave the plot, narrative switching style and flashbacks really well. As with most British movies, the cast really make it. Michael Caine, Helen Mirren, Bob Hoskins and a few others are in this. I adore Caine and Mirren so it was wonderful seeing them together. Even more delightful was the young versions of their character was played by JJ Feild, another favourite of mine and Kelly Reilly (who was in L’Auberge Espagnole; I still really want to see the sequel to that). Every time I watch a British movie, I play a game of 50 Actors and see what else I’ve seen them in. Anyway, the movie showed the characters in even a better light than in the movie and has a more hopeful tone than even the book. Well adapted.