As in the book, the film follows the main character Max, a young boy. The movie portrays a significantly longer and in-depth narrative than the inspirational book. The film provides more depth to Max, starting the story with his older sister leaving him to spend time with her friends as an explanation for his later acting out. The film contains several scenes showing his mother's devotion and caring while at the same time depicting additional, external to Max, stressors as contributing to her shortened temper that leads to Max being sent to bed without dinner.
The deeper story allows the film to delve deeper into the psyche of Max as well, and the allegory of the boy's phantasmagoric adventure on the island is entwined with even more provoking symbolism. Along with the more involved story, the film has engaging cinematography with a verisimilitude that really captures the viewer. Max Records as the main character was believable throughout; one had a feeling of watching home recordings of a child playing in his back yard or with his toys, acting and reacting as any real child might.
Beyond the expanded exposition and deeper examination of Max on the Island, little is changed from the 300-odd-word book, with the film even including Max chasing the family dog around the house before the title card. The only noticeable change made was the removal of the Jumanji-like scene in Max's room in favour of the child running out the door at night. Such hints at the film's slightly darker feel--one that seems to have struck just the right balance for the emotions and subject matter the film examines.
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