Books in Film: Next Stop Wonderland (1998)

I returned home today after spending Thanksgiving in Vermont at my grandmother’s house, which is where I usually spend that holiday.  It was a good time with family – eating, talking, playing games, working on a puzzle.  I read some too. 🙂

I have a couple of books waiting to be reviewed, but that can wait until tomorrow.  Tonight, I thought I’d bring in my love of films and splice it with my love of books.  I chose the following film because the last part of the movie occurs close to Thanksgiving.

Next Stop Wonderland (1998) is one of my favorite movies because I love its tone and find the main character, Erin (Hope Davis), to be an interesting and relatable protagonist.  The director, Brad Anderson, explains that the movie was born out of saudade:

Saudade is a Brazilian word. It roughly translates into “melancholy” but it also implies a kind of longing for a happiness that is no longer within reach, a kind of home sickness. As Andre the Brazilian musicologist says in the movie, ‘it means sadness and happiness at the same time’ . . . In this movie I wanted to create a character, Erin, who embodied this mixed emotion, this suadade. It is her contentment with solitude along with her longing for companionship that for me makes her journey to find the right man so compelling… and funny.

It’s rare to come across a ‘romantic comedy’ type film that respects the value of solitude.  What I also enjoy about the film is that Erin is a reader and this aspect of her life comes up several times.

Early in the film, she walks up to the counter in a cozy bookstore with an old copy of Wordsworth’s The Prelude.  She accidentally drops the book on the floor where it lands pages open.  The owner of the bookstore stops her from closing the book, telling her, “You should never close a book until you’ve read something from it.  It can be very revealing.”

She reads:

When from our better selves we have too long

Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop

Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired

How gracious, how benign, is Solitude.

Later in the film, Erin, who is a nurse, comes across a sleeping patient with a book lying open on his chest.  The book is Robinson Crusoe and she picks it up to see the words: “I find that I am not alone on the island.”

And finally, near the end of the film, we see her pull out a small book of poems written by her deceased father, who was a doctor by profession, and who obviously instilled a love of words in his daughter.  The title of this fictitious book is called “Heart Needs Home” and is dedicated to Erin.

The books form part of the film’s overarching discussion of destiny, and as such, they uncannily reflect what is going on in Erin’s life at the moment.  And I like that about books, that books can be such companions, speaking back to you about your life – perhaps not as presciently as in the film – but communicating all the same.


Filed under Books in Film

3 responses to “Books in Film: Next Stop Wonderland (1998)

  1. I have always wondered about this film. I am going over to Netflix to add it to my queue.

  2. Pingback: Books in Film: Metropolitan (1990) « A Good Stopping Point

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