Skip to main content

From Page to Screen: Adapting Every Day

Adapting a book to film requires making hard choices. Joy Cheriel Brown analyzes the adaptation choices in the film Every Day.

Adapting a book to film requires making hard choices. Joy Cheriel Brown analyzes the adaptation choices in the film Every Day.

Click to tweet this article to your friends and followers!

Image placeholder title

When I first saw the trailer for the movie, Every Day (screenplay by Jesse Andrews), I was super excited. I had been learning about reincarnation, and something about this movie reminded me of that.

The movie is about a soul named A—some sort of spirit entity—that is about 16-years-old, who wakes up in the body of another person, male or female, every day—always the same age as A. However, things get turned upside down when A inhabits the body of a teen named Justin, and A falls in love with Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon.

The next day, after seeing the trailer for the movie, I saw the book upon which the story is based (Every Day by David Levithan), at the bookstore, not knowing previously that the movie was based on a book. Instead of buying the book, I decided to see the movie first. It is always a constant complaint of moviegoers that the book is always better than the movie so I make a point to see the movie first, then read the book so that neither disappoints.

What Was Changed for The Adaptation of the Screenplay

Every Day is a young adult novel that raised some deep questions. A major theme in the book is about whether it would be ethical if A decided to stay in a body for more than one day. In the book, this is not something that A is able to do. In fact, in the book, A encounters another entity that inhabits the body of Reverend Poole, who plays a significant role as an antagonistic character, and who is not mentioned in the movie at all, which immediately takes away some of the conflict that exists in the book but not the movie.

When A inhabits a body, A (who does not identify as either male or female) tries to leave things as they were before A inhabited the body. The majority of this whole storyline is taken out of the movie. Undoubtedly, this is done to appeal to the broadest audience possible. But still, it is a big enough part of the book to irritate fans because it is not there in the movie. But I can also see why it was taken out of the screenplay—in the book, this particular storyline became redundant, and therefore, lost much of its effectiveness.

Script to Novel - 5 Steps to Adapting Backwards

Because the above mentioned storyline was eliminated, the movie focuses solely on the love story between A and Rhiannon, and a secondary storyline featuring Rhiannon and her family, which is not in the book. Moreover, in the book, A inhabits 41 teenagers, but in the movie it was cut down to 15. The inhabitations that were kept were the ones that involved the love story between A and Rhiannon. This type of editing must be done, however, because the screenwriter doesn’t have as much time to tell the story as the novelist. Also, in the book, the story is told from A’s perspective. So there is plenty of the book that doesn’t include Rhiannon, who is actually not the main protagonist in the book but is in the movie. It would be logical to conclude that the filmmakers most likely felt that telling the story from Rhiannon’s point of view made it more accessible. This change in perspective also explains why Rhiannon’s family was made significantly more important than they are in the book.

Results from the Changes

With the changes made in the adaptation of Every Day, the theme of the movie became solely about the love story and not those deeper philosophical questions that are raised in the novel. The movie also never explores the reality that a 16-year-old girl would probably never just automatically feel love for A, or a connection with A, regardless of whatever body A is in. The premise of the movie becomes: It is the soul of a person one falls in love with, not the body that holds that soul. That’s a great premise, but because there is never any friction from Rhiannon about A being in a different body every day, the opportunity to make it poignant is missed.

There is a sequel to the book Every Day called Another Day, which is told from Rhiannon’s perspective. So it is possible that some of the changes made to the movie version of Every Day were from the sequel.

More articles by Joy Chierl Brown

Learn more on the adaptation process in Screenwriters University's self-paced course, Writing the Adaptation


Image placeholder title