(Credit: Netflix)

From 'Rebecca' to 'The Angel': The 10 best book-to-film adaptations on Netflix

Books are undoubtedly our best companions. However, in a fast-paced world where streaming platforms upload content almost every day, it might get a little tedious for us to flip through the pages when we can watch something equally riveting in a few hours. While I do not wish to offend avid readers, it is what it is. 

Book to film adaptations is increasingly common these days. From classics like Little Women, Pride & Prejudice, Frankenstein to young adult novels like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Fault in Our Stars and other thrilling books like The DaVinci Code, Gone Girl etc., various books have been adapted into films and TV series.

Who thought Netflix would come up with something as riveting as The Queen’s Gambit or that BBC’s modern take on Sherlock Holmes would reignite interest in Arthur Conan Doyle’s elusive and intriguing sleuth?

Netflix has plenty of great book-to-film adaptations that are worth binging on. Here are our top ten picks for the same, and make sure to watch them all before they leave the streaming platform: 

The 10 best book-to-film adaptations on Netflix

Rebecca (Ben Wheatley, 2020)

Based on Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 gothic novel, the 2020 Netflix film was also a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 eponymous film. It revolves around the lives of a newlywed couple who move to the widower’s imposing and intimidating family estate called Manderley in the English suburbs, where the young wife is constantly haunted by the everlasting legacy and shadow of his now-deceased ex-wife, Rebecca.

Starring Lily James and Armie Hammer, the film cannot be considered at par with its predecessor or the original source material. Although Wheatley tries hard to infuse the elements of gothic horror and heighten the atmospheric tension, the book’s legacy and effects remain unparalleled. The horror that resonates within the book’s pages somehow loses its gravitas in the well-shot film sequences.

Our Souls At Night (Ritesh Batra, 2017)

Based on Kent Haruf’s eponymous book, the film sees a beautiful and aged romance blossoming between two neighbours who have lost their spouses. Despite being neighbours for decades, they establish a connection pretty late to try and make most of the time they have together.

Jane Fonda and Robert Redford deliver wonderfully nuanced performances as they showcase an unusual romance blossoming in their lonesome days. It is honest and sincere and exudes raw emotions that help weave a wonderfully realistic and human premise.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Chiwetel Ejiofor, 2019) 

Based on the memoir by Bryan Mealer and William Kamkwamba, who also collaborate with Ejiofor to write the screenplay, The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind is based on real-life events surrounding the extraordinary efforts of a young Malawi boy. Determined to fight against staggering odds, the young boy bids to save his village and his family from the terrible famine by creating a wind generator.  

Based on an incredible true story, the film boasts stellar performances, a powerful narrative and an emotional and moving storyline. It exposes the brutal realities of farming in Africa and is exceptionally humbling with a gut-wrenching premise that will surely leave the viewers in tears. 

The Angel (Ariel Vromen, 2018)

Adapted from Uri Bar-Joseph’s The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, the film focuses on the true, and spine-chilling, story of the Egyptian president’s son-in-law Ashraf Marwan, also the special advisor, who, in the wake of the war, ventured into a high-stakes and dangerous game of espionage by collaborating with Israel becoming one of their prized assets.

Old-fashioned and fascinating, the film provides the Israeli perspective of the story and follows Marwan’s journey as the undercover diplomat. It is stylish and well-shot, and, despite a slow-paced beginning, the film gains momentum moments before its mind-boggling climax. Intense and thought-provoking, watch it if you are in the mood for a classic espionage action thriller!

The Woman in the Window (Joe Wright, 2021)

An agoraphobic child psychologist is obsessed with the notion of her neighbour’s murder after allegedly witnessing it from the window. However, when the police do not find a dead body, she decides to dive deeper into the truth herself and soon descends into a dangerous rabbit hole.

Adapted from Dan Mallory’s eponymous novel, which obviously has quite a bit of controversy surrounding it, the film pays tribute to Alfred Hitchcock by indulging in a dangerous rendezvous of thrill and voyeuristic discoveries where the protagonist takes recourse to voyeurism to stay in touch with the outside world before chancing upon a sinister truth.

All the Bright Places (Brett Haley, 2020)

Based on Jennifer Niven’s book of the same name and starring Elle Fanning and Justice Smith, this coming-of-age film deals with teenage angst, suffering and other serious issues, including suicide, mental health, survivor’s guilt and abuse. It also helps trace the journey of the two leads as they gradually heal from past trauma and learn to love each other as well as themselves.  

“I first read the book when I was 14,” said Fanning, who plays Violet. Given a chance to bring the book to the big screen, and being in love with filmmaking itself, Fanning made fell in love with the idea of the character. It prompted her to take up the role and help steer the conversation regarding such heavyweight issues forward. 

The Fundamentals of Caring (Rob Burnett, 2016)

Writer Ben Benjamin runs from his divorce when he works as a caregiver for an 18-year-old boy named Trevor who has muscular dystrophy. As he takes Trevor on a road trip to see the deepest pit in the world, they forge a beautiful friendship. They are joined by a hitchhiker named Dot as well as a pregnant woman named Peaches, and together, they face some bitter truths about themselves while rediscovering a new perspective towards life. 

Although the film was not very well-received by critics, Burnett’s indie adaptation of Jonathan Evison’s novel The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving showed Paul Rudd at his finest. Joined by Craig Roberts, Selena Gomez and Jennifer Ehle, the film is a brilliant look at redemption, self-introspection and the art of rebirthing one’s creative sensibility. 

The Last Thing He Wanted (Dee Rees, 2020) 

Adapted from Joan Didion’s eponymous book, the film focuses on a journalist from Washington DC. She begins to lose her way within her own self-composed narrative of ethics during the Presidential election when she is sent on a guilt-inducing errand by her dying father and is forced to assume his position as an arms dealer.

Starring Willem Dafoe, Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck and more, the predicament of a daughter caught between her morals and call of duty is well-established in the film. Although the book is arguably the more riveting one, the film has an incredible casting and manages to hold on to the audience attention.

Things Heard & Seen (Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini, 2021) 

Based on Elizabeth Brundage’s novel, All Things Cease to Appear; the film shows a Manhattan artist relocating with her husband and daughter to a historic small-town. As she tries to adjust to her new life, she understands that her new home hides a sinister history that is as devastating and dark as the one at the root of her marriage. 

Starring Amanda Seyfried and George Norton, the cast’s brilliant performances add to the film’s sinister feel. While it did not live up to certain expectations due to its weak look at horror, the film is intriguing in terms of the dramatic tension. Maybe some of it should have been left in the book to make the film appear more fresh and original!  

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mike Newell, 2018)

Based on Mary Ann Shaffer’s eponymous historical fiction novel, the film is set in the aftermath of the Second World War when a young woman named Juliet Ashton forms a close bond with the inhabitants of the previously Nazi-occupied Guernsey Island. The book she writes recounting their experiences from the war.

The film has a strong ensemble who deliver incredible performances, namely Lily James, Michiel Huisman and Tom Courtney. The narrative is intriguing, emotionally charged, and abounds in high-strung tension. A sense of poignant hope buoys the main conflict within the framework of friendship and love.

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