By Jesse Keith
Adapting a novel to film can bring new life to the story by heightening its visual aspects. Film can also introduce the story to larger audiences by telling the tale in a shorter period of time. Some novels however, are poorly suited for adaptation to film. These novels lack the visual elements needed to create a movie, or contain a cumbersome amount of exposition not easily transferred to the screen.
It’s surprising then that director Deepa Mehta (Bollywood Hollywood) has attempted to make a film version of the late great Canadian author Carol Shields’ The Republic of Love, a novel full of philosophical introspection, an enormous number of characters and virtually devoid of visual elements. Despite Mehta’s efforts to rein in the story by combining characters and reducing exposition, the plot is confusing to viewers who haven’t read the novel. Without the symbolism and philosophizing present in the novel, The Republic of Love is a simple romance story: boy wants girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy tries to get girl back.
So, why go through all the confusion for such a simple story?
Those who can accommodate a little confusion will find The Republic of Love is a very charming love story. Bruce Greenwood (Thirteen Days) and Emelia Fox (The Pianist) give performances of a calibre not commonly seen in romance flicks.
Mehta adds flair to the story through the use of interesting visuals and a hindi music soundtrack. This addition is a unique touch, although it has a bit of a hit and miss throughout the movie, which has an entirely Caucasian cast and takes place in Toronto. Sometimes it’s very effective, but at times it’s a little distracting, kind of like playing Hank Williams during the battle scenes in The Last Samurai.
The movie version of the Republic of Love might not be as impressive as the novel, but it’s quite endearing. Besides you can’t take a date to the novel.