By Will Barber Taylor
Jason Watkins stars in this fascinating and engaging film about a man who, deprived of any attention throughout his life suddenly becomes the centre of it when he acquires a luxurious overcoat. However, when his coat is taken from him it is all he can do to retrieve it. As classic a ghost story as Dickens’ the Signalman, The Overcoat is a definitive example of Russian literature from the master of fiction, Nikolia Gogol.
Adapted by Patrick Myles, this new version of The Overcoat is brimming with character. Adapting any great work of literature is difficult, particularly one which has such significance in Russia’s literary canon. Dostoyevsky is said to have once quipped that “We all come out from Gogol’s ‘Overcoat’.” To adapt such a work and to do it in a refreshing and engaging manner is certainly a mighty task and one that Myles performs admirably.
Myles, having been an actor clearly understands how to give actors the time they need to shine. Though Watkins is the star of the show, Myles allows every character to be given a moment to shine. Myles also understands how to bring a story to the screen visually without tampering with its inherent charm. Gogol’s work never feels anything but lovingly real and genuine. The Overcoat doesn’t feel like an adaptation – it feels like the story literally brought to life in front of us.
Watkins’ performance as Christopher Cobbler is superb. Watkins knows how to play a quiet, reserved man and he truly brings the reclusive and shy Cobbler fully to life. By making his character so miserable and pitiful Watkins instantly elicits our sympathy and ensures that we aren’t too aggrieved at his actions at the end of the film.
The Overcoat is a blissful mixing of an intelligent and thoughtful script with excellent performances and beautiful cinematography. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to experience one of the purest adaptations of this great Russian classic you are likely to see.