We Have Always Lived in the Castle Book to Movie Comparison
We Have Always Lived in the Castle has long been a favorite. Although, I have to admit, the first time I read it I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. It’s definitely a book that could be read multiple times to really piece together everything. I talked about the book in depth in this post but today I want to talk about the recently released movie adaptation.
Now, I usually am extremely picky about adaptations because it seems like when they turn a book into a movie the makers often lose what makes the book special. I thought they stood a good chance with We Have Always Lived in the Castle because it’s mostly grounded in reality. So, before we get into it I want to warn you – There Will Be Spoilers for both the book and movie.
Well, I can honestly say that they did try to keep it as faithful to the book as possible. There isn’t a whole lot of dialogue to work with and most of the story is from Merricat’s point of view and thoughts. The movie incorporates large chunks of the dialogue from the movie. There are very few deviations from the book and those that are there are generally minimal. Except for one rather large one that I’ll talk about later.
There are the usual things changed. For instance, Uncle Julian is younger (and quite attractive) than it seems like he is in the book. Constance is dark haired instead of blonde, etc. Not too big of a deal. Merricat looked and was portrayed much differently, however. In the book she’s described as being somewhat wild, messy hair and doesn’t like to wash. So I did picture her a bit differently than super tight braids, cleanly pressed clothing and just generally neat and tidy.
Merricat’s character was the most disappointing. As I said, the lack of narration really makes her a blank feeling character. Merricat in the book was definitely disturbed but she had a lot of character and having the actress play Merricat like a robot was a poor choice. You don’t really feel anything for her.
It’s a hard movie to describe but, in spite of it being a fairly close adaptation, it was just middling. It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great either. The movie had the opportunity to visualize the murder or even some of the backstory that was hinted at in the book through snippets of thoughts and dialogue.
It’s one of the few movies that would have been greatly benefited from a voice-over narration throughout. It would have given some much-needed context to a lot of the scenes especially since much of the book is inside Merricat’s head.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle does up the creepiness factor of the relationship between Constance and Cousin Charles. She comments a lot about how much Charles looks like their father and seems to find him particularly attractive when he’s wearing their father’s clothes. Which is actually an idea I had after reading the book.
One of the biggest departures from the book is a scene near the end that was just so unnecessary and it made me angry that they put it in. At the end of the book the girls are hiding out in the house while the townspeople are bringing them food as ‘apologies’ for trashing their house. The girls take the food inside but don’t interact with the people. Charles shows up, begs Constance to let him in but eventually gives up and goes away.
The movie decided to change this to Charles showing up, breaking into the house, attacking Constance and Merricat kills him with a snow globe. It was just such an unnecessary and you could literally cut it out without changing anything in the movie. It’s literally filler and seems like too much because it’s almost the end and things are winding down.
All in all it’s worth a watch if you like the book. I just wouldn’t expect anything spectacular.
GracieKat was the first co-host of Sci-Fi & Scary, Lilyn’s partner-in-crime, and sub-head of the Kali Krew. She reviews horror books, movies, and games for the site. She also does a weekly Focus on the Frightful feature, and is the site list-maker. She is also in control of the Sci-Fi & Scary podcast which will relaunch soon.