Of all of M.R. James’ work, Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad is probably my favorite. With something of a stomach churning twist to the ghost in a bed sheet image, the story is fairly fast paced (once you get used to James’ writing style) and quite effective.
This is quite a sad adaptation of that work.
Let me clarify: it’s not a bad adaptation, in fact, it’s quite lovely. What I mean is, I found my heart aching in several sections for the characters presented. I mean it’s quite literally a sad adaptation. John Hurt takes on the role of the haunted professor, who finds instead of the whistle in the original source material, a ring on the beach. He finds himself being both haunted by the paranormal and reality-which is what I find so emotionally painful in this adaptation. The reason that Hurt is able to find the ring is that he is taking a break from the stress of hospitalizing his wife, whom we are shown is quickly loosing her personality.
This BBC adaptation isn’t particularly loyal to the source material, but I disagree with the assertion that it will not remind James fans of the source. I think that it’s certainly an updated telling of the story, but it holds enough of the original atmosphere to appeal to James fans. I also don’t find the added characterization to be distracting-and with a 52 minute airing time, perhaps there’s not enough time for things that would have been a weakness in a full length feature to bog down the plot.