[Quick Summary: A 26 y.o. mother and her 5 y.o. son, who are hostages in a 10' x 10' shed, dare to escape.]
I was afraid of this script. I did not want to read it.
I kept saying to myself, "This is the most I've ever dreaded reading a script."
But to complete my tour of the 2016 Oscar scripts, I had to read it.
So I did, and I'm telling you, "You should read this script."
If it helps, I list the top three questions that I had prior to reading this script:
QUESTION #1: Why would I want to go there?
ANSWER: Yes, the story takes place in a horrible situation, but Donoghue, the writer/novelist, finds the joy and empathy. By p. 2, I knew I was in good hands.
QUESTION #2: Is it scary? I'm squeamish.
ANSWER: Yes, in a good way. It's more about the non-stop suspense and tension.
QUESTION #3: I've seen characters in danger. What's the big deal?
ANSWER: This is tension of the highest order - peril, I tell you, PERIL.
The stakes are extremely clear, and the consequences more immediate.
It boils down to a razor's edge, minute by minute survival.
ex. Can Ma's mental health hold out one more day?
In the scene below, note how the writer ups the stakes (Jack is hurt, Ma might be).
Note also how she simultaneously:
- explains what happened (a 5 y.o. escaped alone)
- moves the story forward (need to find Ma ASAP)
- ends the scene (writer lets the reader piece together what the cops are thinking through action, not dialogue)
ex. "JACK (louder): Old Nick. But that's not his name.
OFFICER PARKER: Did this Nick guy hurt you?
She goes to touch his lip, but he flinches away.
JACK: I bit me by accident. And the, the, the -
He pats the ground to remember the word.
JACK: The hard of the street. I jumped and smasheded my knee.
He remembers Bad Tooth and takes it out of his mouth.
OFFICER PARKER: What's that, Jack?
JACK: A bit of Ma.
Both officers peer at Bad Tooth, and exchange a dark look."
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Peril is an extremely dramatic device. Keep all other things (B story line, settings, etc.) fairly simple so as not to draw focus away from it.
by Emma Donoghue
Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue