Top Films Inspired by Books at the Glasgow Film Festival

Category: Reading

Next week is the start of the annual Glasgow Film Festival and since we’re pretty keen on film versions of books we thought we’d bring together a few of our top picks from the packed programme.  


2 February | 15:10

Helen Mirren and John Lynch star in Pat O’ Connor’s adaptation of Bernard MacLaverty’s book Cal. It tells the story of a young working-class man with minor ties to the IRA who falls in love with a widowed librarian. The film focuses on their complex relationship and highlights the difficulties the people of Ireland faced during the Troubles in sustaining relationships whilst caught in a world of violence. Mirren won the Cannes Best Actress award for her affecting portrayal of librarian Marcella, and the film boasts great performances across the cast. If you’re a fan of MacLaverty’s work (and we imagine you are) why not head along to watch the screen version.

The Bookshop

2 February | 18:15

3 February | 15:30

Adapted from Penelope Fitzgerald’s book of the same name, The Bookshop is about a middle-aged widow, Florence, who opens a bookshop in a house said to be haunted by ghosts. Despite her best efforts, Florence encounters resistance within a community that appears reluctant to embrace change. With great performances from Emily Mortimer and Bill Nighy as well as the directorial flair of Spanish filmmaker Isobel Coixet, this is a must for any Fitzgerald fan.

High Sierra

26 February | 13:00

Based on W.R. Burnett’s novel about an aging gangster once prominent in the ‘Dillinger Set’ - Raoul Walsh’s 1941 adaptation stars Ida Lupino and Humphrey Bogart. Bogart plays Roy “Mad Dog” Earle, a gangster who must pull of an ambitious heist after his release from prison. Earle was said to be modelled on infamous gangster, John Dillinger. However, American sensors were keen to avoid glorifying one of the country’s most notorious criminals and insisted the ending of Burnett’s book be reworked for the screen, so that Earle received the appropriate punishment for his immoral actions. The film was a massive influence on the film noir genre, adopted by numerous American filmmakers throughout the 40’s and 50’s.

You Were Never Really Here

23 February | 20:45 (sold out)

24 February | 13:00

Joaquin Phoenix plays a retired war veteran and FBI agent in (Glasgow-born) director Lynne Ramsay’s adaptation of Jonathan Ames’ novella, You Were Never Really Here. Phoenix’s portrayal of a brutal man deeply affected by traumatic memories, working within the murky world of private security, has drawn praise from critics. The film received a seven minute standing ovation when it premiered at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. If you’re a fan of Ames’ book, this isn’t one to miss. 

The Grapes of Wrath

23 February | 10:30

Henry Fonda stars as Tom Joad in Tom Ford’s adaptation of Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, about a family making their way across the desolate plains of Oklahoma to the promised land of California. Set amidst the backdrop of the Great Depression, the film, like the book, examines the horrific realties of everyday life facing millions of working class Americans who suddenly found themselves without work or food. Steinbeck was determined to hold those he felt were responsible for the Depression to account, and didn’t pull any punches when it came to his intention for the book, stating: "I've done my damnedest to rip a reader's nerves to rags”. If you don’t have the time to get through the 464 pages that comprise the book, why not head along to the film version instead?

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

25 February | 13:00

We couldn’t leave this one out. The 1969 film adaptation of Muriel Spark’s classic book of the same name stars Maggie Smith as the irreverent Miss Jean Brodie, self-appointed leader of the Brodie set at Gillespie’s School for Girls. It is one of Smith’s most iconic roles which won her the first of two Academy Awards. We love the book and we love the film and with Spark’s wonderful characters, Smith’s performance and a nostalgic look at a bygone Edinburgh, this one’s a no brainer.

On the Waterfront

24 February | 10:30

On the Waterfront firmly established Marlon Brando as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. His portrayal of dockyard worker, Terry Malloy epitomised the frustrations of blue collar Americans desperate to escape the often stifling realities of everyday life. The film was adapted from a series of investigative essays, first published in The New York Sun under the title Crime on the Waterfront by journalist Malcolm Johnson. They exposed the realities of the crime and corruption ruling New York’s waterfront at the time. Lee. J Cobb is brilliant as malevolent crime boss, Johnny Friendly, but Brando’s performance alone is reason enough to watch/rewatch one of Elia Kazan’s best films.

My Friend Dahmer

27 February | 20:40

28 February | 13:00

Based on the graphic novel by John Backderf, My Friend Dahmer was adapted for the screen by writer/director Marc Meyers. The film focuses on the early life of infamous American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, whom Backderf attended high school with in the 1970’s. The film paints an uncomfortably empathetic vision of a young man, crippled by anxiety and the strained relationship between his mother and father, whose obsessive and increasingly strange behaviour leads him down a precarious road. 

The Glasgow Film Festival runs from 21 February to 4 March. If you’re interested in finding out more about what’s on throughout the three weeks, visit the website for more information.

For more films inspired by books check out our 17 Books to Read Before They Become Films blog

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