Partway through reading this, I began to imagine the possibilities for improvement that a film adaptation would provide. For a book so dialogue heavy, one imagines it would lend itself beautifully to the medium. As long as the cast is appropriately assembled and capable of making their words spring from the screen much as they sprang from the page in Hornby’s novel.
To my surprise, an adaptation is already in the works starring Aaron Paul, Pierce Brosnan, Rosamund Pike, and Imogen Poots, about as picture-perfect a cast as could’ve been had. Seeing who they have to work with, I’m now certain it has all the potential to be better than the work it’s based upon.
Even if it ends up being a push, however, A Long Way Down should still function rather well as a film. The setup, four would-be suicides meeting atop a popular jumping spot and striking up a curious sort of friendship, and the story that grows out of it couldn’t be majorly tarnished by even that deflating ending of Hornby’s, so I imagine it would take a considerable effort to fudge so rich a concept.
Just lift the dialogue straight from the book itself, along with some of the narration from each of the four main characters, and perhaps Hollywood up the ending a little, and you have the makings of another successful Hornby adaptation.
Perhaps, though, I’m being too forgiving on account of my love for concepts that manage to be so simple yet, at the same time, so brilliant. As I said, the ending is one of those letdowns in which the story, for better or worse, just sort of ends. Further, there’s nothing life-changing about what’s contained within the bindings of this particular book. Part of me thinks that’s even the point.
But as I could tell from watching About a Boy and High Fidelity, as well as his collaboration with Ben Folds on the album Lonely Avenue, Hornby is, succinctly put, a naturally-gifted writer. Which is to say his style, his voice can bolster even the weakest of stories. And it’s that that I believe made A Long Way Downso hard to, well, put down.
Many would be quick to disagree with such a claim, a lot of them due largely to Hornby’s popularity, but I think just as many would agree. What’s important, though, is which side you happen to fall on, because it means the difference between “reader beware” and “read it.”
Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.