Adaptations of books are a common occurrence in the film industry, from best-selling trilogies like Lord of the Rings to classics such as Empire of the Sun. Changes to certain elements or characters from the books during the transition to film can cause some controversy. Take The Martian Child, for example. Even though the novel talks about the main character's homosexuality, the movie has completely ignored this aspect. Whether or not it was to avoid criticism from audiences, it definitely raises a few eyebrows.
Directed by Menno Meyjes, who received an Oscar nomination in 1986 for the screenplay of The Color Purple, The Martian Child takes a look into the life of popular science fiction writer David (John Cusack) as he tries to cope with the recent death of his wife by adopting a child (Bobby Coleman) who ends up being more than David bargained for. Dennis believes he's a Martian and refuses to step outside without his umbrella to protect him from the sun's harmful rays. David has to struggle with Dennis' many quirks while being under the ever-watchful eye of Social Services and attempting to write a sequel to his best-selling novel.
Slightly reminiscent of I Am Sam without the autism and the abundant Beatles references, The Martian Child allows the audience to sympathize with the single parent as he struggles to bring up a child even though he may not be properly equipped to do so. The ever-pungent opinions of David's sister (Joan Cusack) and neurotic, over-the-top book agent (Oliver Platt) give the film its moments of comedic relief from the seriousness of the main plot.
Meyjes is able to produce a feel-good movie without the overbearing cliches that accompany father-son bonding movies. Even with the omission of the main character's homosexuality the integrity of the film was still genuine. It brings up important questions on whether it should be harder for single parents--males especially--to adopt children when in the first place there is such a shortage of people willing to adopt. The Martian Child brings audiences down to earth with its endearing plot and characters and leaves them with a sense of belonging.