The Memory Keeper's Daughter
INT. PITTSBURGH BEDROOM – NIGHT
(In this beautifully-decorated bedroom – it would be the envy of any little girl – Caroline puts Phoebe into bed and then climbs in beside her. Six-year-old Phoebe rests her head on Caroline’s shoulder – clearly they have a close physical bond.)
CAROLINE: What do you want to hear tonight?
PHOEBE: Funny Bunny.
CAROLINE: You sure? Okay. But you may have to help me if I forget something.
CAROLINE: Once there was a little bunny who was perfect in every way except she wasn’t like every other bunny. And when she went out for a walk other bunnies would sometimes call her –
PHOEBE: Funny Bunny.
CAROLINE: And how did that make her feel?
CAROLINE: So what did she do?
PHOEBE: She went home to Mommy Bunny.
CAROLINE: And Mommy Bunny held her in her paws and said, “Everything’s different. No two flowers are the same, no two butterflies, no two bunnies. And that’s why I love you. You’re not my Funny Bunny, you’re my -”
PHOEBE: “Honey Bunny.”
(Caroline kisses her with deep, abiding love.)
Based on Kim Edwards’ best-selling novel, this film tells the story of a doctor (David) who, one stormy night in the mid-60’s, delivers his own twins, one of whom has Down Syndrome. He gives the baby to his nurse (Caroline), asking her to put it in a home. He then tells his wife (Norah) that the baby has died. Caroline, in the meantime, decides to raise the child as her own. And life goes on, happily for some, unhappily for others, until the secret is finally revealed.
I thought Kim Edwards’ book had a powerful premise, one that kept readers enthralled as the lives of these three people and their children unraveled before us, but one which was never fully-realized in the novel’s end. In doing the adaptation, I eliminated a major-minor character and turned the final discovery around. (In the book Caroline comes to Norah after David’s death and tells her the truth. I found this oddly and uncharacteristically cruel of Caroline – so I left the discovery to Norah herself, using the photographs David has taken throughout the years and the letters sent by Caroline to David – and in the final scene had Norah visit Caroline. A simple change but one which, for me at least, made all the difference.)
The incredibly talented director Mick Jackson is one whom I’ve always wanted to work with. He did a wonderful job – the film was nominated for an Emmy for Best Television Movie – but oddly enough the actors and director were not given nods, and they all did splendid work. Any reservations I have about the film have to do with the air-time constraints imposed on a television movie. This one is so tightly edited that there is scarcely room to breathe – those who are familiar with the novel seem to have had no problem with this, but those who are not are left gasping at the pace. If only we’d had ten more minutes – not to add anything more, but simply to slow down the story-telling.
The scene I include here is not in the novel, and is my favorite, partially because it is all mine. There’s a powerful video clip on IMDB.