Netflix recently adapted Sarah Alderson’s 2020 novel The Weekend Away. At just over 90 minutes, I was a little worried that the ties that keep the thriller together on the page would be cut in such a short adaptation. Below is a spoiler-free look at the adaptation.
Leighton Meester as Beth looks the part of a new mom and could not be further from the Blair Waldorf character she is known for. She is fresh faced with freckles and flat hair. While Meester has the emotion to pull off the panic called for, with the loss of the novel’s depth achieved through first-person narration we’re left with only suspicious glances and lip biting.
Christina Wolf (The Royals, Batwoman TV series) only has a brief appearance (as expected) but looks the part of the extroverted best friend Kate with her sparkly party dress and slash of crimson lipstick.
Luke Norris (Poldark, The Duchess) plays Beth’s husband who does a great job of lackluster help on Facetime but turs it up a (convincing) notch when he finally arrives on the scene.
Is it true to the book?
While the broad strokes of plot remain the same, a lot of the details around the edges have been changed—even little things like the baby’s name. The location moves from Lisbon to Croatia, the name and nationality of the protagonist (now an American expat named Beth instead of an Irish expat named Orla). The Uber driver who plays a prominent role in the novel has an entirely new backstory. There is a feeling that there was a need to “Americanise” part of the story to make it more appealing to a wider audience (an effort I believe is uneeded). Most these things might only bother you if you’ve read the book first. But what is interesting is that the novel’s author, Sarah Alderson, is the screenwriter for the film adaptation as well. I would be curious to know why she made the changes she did.
The alterations wouldn’t have been so bad if the suspense still translated from page to screen, but unfortunately it falls flat. As mentioned above, without the protagonist’s first-person dialogue we as viewers miss out on her conflicting emotions and very real panic. Without saying too much, the biggest mistakes the film makes is the opening shot and different motivations for the conclusion. In the book, Alderson expertly casts suspicion on several people—including Kate herself—that enriches the novel and keeps readers guessing.
Is it worth watching?
This is one where you can skip the film and read the book—you’ll get so much more out of it (and still support Alderson’s craft). Alderson’s thriller will make a great beach or poolside read this summer!