Last week, I reviewed J.K. Rowling’s adult fiction novel ‘The Casual Vacancy’ (link to the article at the end). This week, moving slightly away from the book, I will give you my thoughts on the TV adaptation of the novel.
In February, the BBC released 3 episodes of around 55min each, retelling the story of the inhabitants of the small English village of Pagford. Being in France, I was only able to access the episodes online but they are already available in the UK and will air in the US at the end of April.
I enjoy watching dramas in general and this miniseries was no exception. The acting is mostly good. I had issues with some of the teenage actors whose acting was at times a little awkward, but apart from these rare instances, the actors were on point. Michael Gambon is great in his role as Howard Mollison, the old man in charge of the Parish council. I only recognised him through his voice because his acting made me forget the man behind it. Gambon leads the viewer into feeling all he or she should toward this man who is on an unscrupulous and pathetic strife for power. Although some of the characters weren’t physically as I imagined they would be (that is bound to happen in an adaptation), the actors all portrayed their respective characters well. In this aspect, the miniseries is very faithful to the novel. However, I was really taken aback by the adaptation of the plot. Many important aspects of the book are omitted, aspects that I found made the book what it was: a great social commentary. Deep issues such as rape, self-harm, and religious discrimination are completely erased from the script. One aspect of the plot that also changes drastically is the ending. Although I understand the wish to make it less tragic, I believe it takes away from the final message of the book, which is that the Pagfordians have failed as a community by being selfish and focusing on petty issues rather than on their struggling neighbours in the Fields. It’s hard to get into too much details about the ending without giving anything away so I won’t say more about it, but just know that if you have read the book, the BBC adaptation will hurt less, but also will leave out important questions.
I think that if you haven’t read the book prior to watching the show, you will enjoy it as much as any good British drama but if, like me, you have the novel in mind, you will have a hard time overcoming the numerous diversions from the story. The miniseries is easier to digest than the book in terms of the content and ending, so if you can only handle a certain amount of tears and loss of faith in humanity, it might be a good option.
In short, as a drama, the TV version of The Casual Vacancy is great. As an adaptation, not so much.
If you want to read my review of the novel, follow the link below: