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Review: Everything Is Illuminated

One thing I hate doing is seeing a film after I've read the book. It changes my perception of the book, sometimes ruining characters I once loved, and it's hard to enjoy the film without noticing bits that have been added or missed out. As good as any director might be, their version will never be exactly the same as what you imagined when you read the book. However, I love it when I see a good film and find out it's based on a book, because I can then read the book and find out more about the characters I already love from the film. Everything Is Illuminated is a great example of this, as I'd heard very positive things about the book but never got around to reading it, so I rented the film and within minutes I knew I'd be ordering the book!

I had been slightly hesitant to see the film as I knew it covered the subject of the Holocaust, and although I like films that are emotionally moving, I don't want anything too harrowing from my light entertainment. However, I thought Everything Is Illuminated got the balance just right, beginning with the most hilarious part of the film and my favourite, the introduction of the young Ukranian Alex, played by quirky singer and actor Eugene Hutz, who is super-cool in a way that only those for whom English is not their first language can be. As those who've read the book will know very well, he has his own idiolect which seems to have been created by replacing every other word with a synonym randomly plucked from a thesaurus.

The other main character is an American Jew called Jonathan (or 'Jonfen' as Alex endearingly renames him), played by world famous hobbit Elijah Wood. He and Alex are joined by Alex's grandfather and his 'seeing eye bitch', Sammy Davis Jnr Jnr, on a voyage to find a woman named Augustine from a photo Jonathan has of her and his deceased grandfather. There is much amusement along the way as they are surprised and intrigued by each other's cultures, for example Jonathan's vegetarianism seems unbelievable to the Ukranian characters and leaves him eating a single peeled potato for his dinner on their first evening together, more of which is eaten by the dog than any of the human characters!

Having an interest in Eastern European culture certainly increased my enjoyment of this film, but as the huge success of the book has shown, it is simply a great story with throughly lovable characters and since it only costs £7.99 on Play.com you've no excuse not to see it right away!