Stage to screen adaptations can often be the most difficult to accomplish. When adapting a book to screen, there is often more to expand and take from. When adapting from a stage play – especially one that primarily takes place in one location – directors must make sure that the film does not feel confined or restricted. With an excellent cast that includes Bruce Greenwood, Xavier Dolan, and Catherine Keener, Canadian director Charles Binamé adapts Nicolas Billon’s psychological thriller, ELEPHANT SONG. Sadly, the screen here proved to be a bit too big for this play to handle.
After the abrupt disappearance of one hospital doctor, another, Dr. Toby Green (Greenwood), a psychologist, is called in to interrogate Michael (Xavier Dolan), a patient who is believed to know the whereabouts of the missing doctor. As Toby continues to peel the layers away from Michael’s mind games – or so he believes – he continues to ignore the advice given from the person who knows Michael best, Toby’s ex-wife, nurse Susan Peterson (Catherine Keener).
Much about the film feels awfully familiar, most noticeably, Dolan’s (and the playwright’s) attempt to channel Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter from THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. The film even goes so far as to quote Lecter’s “quid pro quo” bit. Dolan does his best, but up against the talents of Greenwood and Keener, it’s clear that his best place in this industry is as a writer and director. Even as an actor, Dolan never steers clear of what he loves most in a film though, that being mommy issues. Yes, Michael is a very troubled young man and that is rooted back to his mother’s abandonment.
The film steadily increases its intensity with its pacing; as if it were leading up to some profound revelation. Well that revelation sadly never comes. The entire final act of the film falls completely flat but while ELEPHANT SONG isn’t entirely believable, it is still worth watching for Keener and Greenwood’s performances alone. That said, I would have much rather watched those performances on a stage, where they belong.