Instead, it's really a story about being. As such, it's extremely hard to consider adapting this novel for the screen. Though it's been called "sci-fi" that label seems odd somehow, because it completely lacks the action-blockbuster arc of its cousins in the contemporary re-telling of the Pinocchio tale. Such close relatives would be films with characters like Wesley Snipes in the "Blade" movies, or Sigourney Weaver's Ripley who takes that ontologically tantalizing swerve in the last installment of the "Alien" series, and a host of others. But even on a grand scale, movies about being not made in the action-blockbuster mold have a hard time connecting - witness Spielberg's criminally under-rated "A.I., Artificial Intelligence."
Mark Romanek's screen version, which released in mid-September, has been eagerly anticipated because the novel itself is so well-regarded, but also because this film has some of the best casting in memory. If you're old enough to remember the 1982 screen version of John Irving's 1978 novel, "The World According to Garp," you'll recall it was inconceivable that anyone but Robin Williams could play Garp. Just so here: no one but Mulligan could play Kathy H., Keira Knightly is brilliant as Ruth, and Andrew Garfield - plastered all over American multiplexes in "The Social Connection," but first coming to my attention last year in "Red Riding Trilogy" - embodies Tommy. Moreover, I've never seen such good casting of younger versions of movie characters. Isabel Meikle-Small as young Kathy looks like Mulligan - and has her facial expressions and movements cold. Ella Purnell is immediately recognizable as Keira Knightly's Ruth as a child. And Charlie Rowe makes Tommy actually clearer than he is in the novel - just as Sally Hawkins does for Miss Lucy, the teacher who abruptly fired for explaining to the students at Hailsham what their lives will be and what they are for.