It could not have been easy for Ava DuVernay to successfully adapt Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved 1962 classic into a film. When it came out in theaters this year, children flocked to see this beloved story rendered on film. Determined to see what the fuss was all about, I read the book before I watched the movie, finally understanding the draw of this special, fantastical, science-based tale about a peculiar family who love each other so fiercely that they transcend the natural laws of physics.
The story begins with the portrayal of a near perfect family. Not the boring kind we see onscreen sitting down for dinner together every night and bickering: albeit lovingly, but the kind that deal with everything difficult with actual explanations, and above all, humour. Meg Murray (Storm Reid) is the eldest daughter of astro-physicists Alex (Chris Pine) and Kate Murray (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). While experimenting with travelling across the universe, Alex Murray disappears one fine day, when his son Charles Wallace is but an infant. With a strong intellect of her own, the cute precocious child Meg transforms into the teenage Meg over the four years that her father has been gone, and begins to fade into an oblivion of grief and resentment – a combination that is disastrous in a budding teenager. Her only real consolation is her six-year-old brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), a prodigy who speaks in full sentences, has some uncanny precognitive abilities, and is essentially the family’s protector.
As their mother mourns quietly, putting on a brave face for her children, and Meg buries her teenage self into a quagmire of despondency, Charles Wallace keeps everyone going with his hot milk, deep empathy, and sandwich making abilities. When he appears one stormy night with an eccentric, bubbly, magical woman named Mrs Whatsit (played with such fun by Reese Witherspoon), it marks the beginning of the children’s journey to find their father, hand in hand with Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling), Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey), and a young boy named Calvin O’Keefe (Levi Miller) who sees Meg for who she really is: a bright, lovely, soul.
The children’s journey in space, deemed unfilmable, is distilled and rendered quite beautifully through DuVernay’s keen eyes, a feat that not everyone could have pulled off considering the level of abstract imagery in the original content. These visuals, together with the ensemble cast that work so well together, make for a rather extraordinary viewing experience, and a satisfying one for anyone who fell in love with the book.
Ava DuVernay is the first black woman to direct a Hollywood movie with a budget of over $100 million, and she brings her unmistakable stamp to a film where the characters would otherwise most probably have been cast as white by default. Instead, by bringing in actors of many colours (Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey, Storm Reid, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Deric McCabe), DuVernay lends a completeness to an already universal story about the power of love. A -Wrinkle In Time is a must-see for your children, but also for yourselves. Of course, as always, you must read L’Engle’s enchanting books first! A Wrinkle in Time is only the first of a quintet: I myself can’t wait to dive into the remaining four books.