The film that this year, arguably, will be the biggest contender for Best Picture at the 2018 Academy Awards is Luca Guadagnino’s adaptation of André Aciman erotically charged coming of age novel Call Me by Your Name.
The film, the trailer for which was released this month, was universally praised at Sundance, and holds a 98 rating on Metacritic. Following the heated summer frisson between 17-year-old Elio Perlman and 24-year-old visiting scholar Oliver in the summer of 1983 in Italy, Call Me by Your Name has been praised for its intensity and how, like this year’s Best Picture winner Moonlight, their relationship transcends the LGBTQ experience.
Clearly, then, there’s an ever-growing appetite for queer films of prestige. And while there are, obviously, many original stories to be told, there are a multitude of LGBTQ novels, like Aciman’s, that could be mined and adapted for the screen. Here are just a few such books we’d love to see make their way on to film.
Set in an undisclosed Arab country in the grips of a sea change, Guapa is a story, at its heart, about identity. The plot follows a day in the life of Rasa, a translator, as he navigates through the current political and personal turmoil in his life, be it his sexuality, his relationship with his family or his cultural identity. It’s a heart wrenching examination of what it means to be queer and an Arab. Interwoven into Rasa’s day a day that, much like Mrs. Dalloway’s, will change his life forever we are told about his experiences growing up with his depressed mother and ironclad grandmother, his crisis of identity while studying in America, and the unsettling and emotional impact that staying closeted can have on people’s lives. It’s an uncompromising, vibrant and powerful insight into a queer experience that, in the West, we often overlook.
Sebastian Barry’s latest novel, which recently won the Costa Prize in the U.K., is a novel that would translate well on to screen, mainly down to how multifaceted the story is. While there are certainly two queer readings of the book, both a transgender and a gay interpretation, the story also grips with themes such as colonialism, the Civil War, racism, as well as the massacre and genocide of Native Americans. Amid all this trauma, however, is a tender and poetic love story that could give any adaptation the feel of a great epic.
A film adaptation of A Little Life would not work due to its sprawling narrative, but this intricate and emotionally devastating novel could make a powerful and diverse mini-series. Those who have read the book are often divided over its difficult and disturbing subject matter, but the central relationship between Jude and Willem is restorative, showcasing the often-unwavering kindness of the human heart. Yanagihara mentioned in a now deleted Facebook post last year that a TV adaption of her novel was in the works, but as of yet there has been no movement on the project. It wouldn’t necessarily make for easy or comfortable viewing, but it’s a story that deserves to be told again and again.
Published in 1966, a year before the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, Maureen Duffy’s seminal lesbian novel explored female sexuality during a time when, in the U.K. at least, the conversation about homosexuality was strictly limited to men who have sex with men. Stylistically very literary, the novel’s depiction of the insecurities about sexuality, be it internalised shame or sexual exhilaration, and the desire to find others like ourselves offers a universality that anyone can relate to.
While people might turn their noses up at YA novels, the genre is a place where, currently, more and more trans and non-binary stories are being told. One such novel, The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson, is an optimistic and emotive look at two teenagers’ experience with being transgender, and while at times it’s desperately sad, there’s also an optimism. At a time where, according to the Trevor Project, 40 percent of transgender adults have reported making a suicide attempt, 92 percent of which occurred before they were 25 years old, stories where the trans experience is realistic but also positive are still needed.
Published only last year, Garth Greenwell’s debut novel What Belongs to You offers an intimate journey of self-discovery and sexual obsession that, much like Robin Campillo’s 2015 film Eastern Boys, says a lot about loneliness. The central character, an unnamed American English teacher living in Bulgaria, is not unlike someone from a Michael Cunningham novel, as he explores his past to make sense of his present. A director with a deft touch someone like Andrew Haigh, whose film Weekend has a subdued and quietly poignant subtlety to it would be needed to handle the complex layers of storytelling, but it would could be a stirring and affecting film were it to be made.
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