The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry Parent Guide
Why the writers chose to gut the emotional core of the main character's journey is the big mystery of the film.
Parent Movie Review
A.J. Fikry (Kunal Nayyar) is depressed, angry and lonely. The widowed owner of the Alice Island bookshop has given up on dinner and is drowning his sorrows in a bottle of wine while he stares morosely at his treasured first edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tamerlane. When he awakens the next morning, Fikry discovers to his horror that his rarest and most valuable book has been stolen.
Shortly after the theft, Fikry finds himself the recipient of an unexpected gift. Walking into his store, he discovers a toddler sitting on the floor with a stuffed toy and a note from her mother. In a letter to “the owner of the bookstore”, the mother explains that she is incapable of raising two-year-old Maya and hopes that the little girl can grow up in an environment where books and education are valued.
Not surprisingly, Fikry panics. But it’s a Friday night, snow is falling, and it will be early the next week before Child Services can send someone to Alice Island to deal with the problem. Unwilling to leave Maya in the police station all weekend, Fikry takes her home – only to discover that he is becoming attached to her. Thanks to a child welfare officer who is either flexible or desperate, Fikry eventually gains custody and Maya Tamerlane Fikry is legally his daughter.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is adapted from a novel of the same name by Gabrielle Zevin. Her book is, in turn, a reworking of George Eliot’s classic 19th century novel, Silas Marner. The original novel is the story of a miser whose hoard of gold coins is stolen, leaving him nearly out of his mind with grief. When he finds a golden-haired little girl sitting at his hearth, his heart changes, and he transforms into a warm, loving man.
In both novels, the foster father/daughter relationship is at the heart of the story, but it is almost completely absent in the movie, robbing it of its emotional core. Most of the film focuses on Fikry’s budding relationship with Amelia Loman (Lucy Hale), a sales rep for a publishing house. This turns the movie into just another romantic drama and leaves little time for Fikry and Maya to interact with each other. I’m fairly certain that if all the conversations between the bookseller and his daughter were stitched together, they’d fill less than five minutes. (I think the movie actually devotes more time to montages of the Island Bookstore at different times of the year than to this critical relationship.) I have no idea why the screenwriter decided to gut the central part of the main character’s emotional journey, but the movie never recovers from the loss.
There’s a term used by geneticists – “clonal decay” – that applies to this movie. When scientists clone an organism, its quality will decline across successive generations thanks to the accumulation of genetic errors. I think this is what has happened here. Silas Marner is a great English novel. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a perfectly competent contemporary book. This film, however, has lost its heart and is nothing more than a disappointment. It’s a sad reminder that good source material doesn’t guarantee a good movie.Directed by Hans Canosa. Starring Kunal Nayyar, Lucy Hale, Christina Hendricks, David Arquette. Running time: 105 minutes. Theatrical release October 8, 2022. Updated October 8, 2022
Watch the trailer for The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry rated PG-13? The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for brief strong language, some suggestive material, and thematic elements
Violence: One person is injured in a car accident; another is killed. There is no graphic detail of injuries. A person dies of cancer. A woman walks into the ocean and intentionally drowns: another is stopped when she only goes out a little way. A dead woman’s fully clothed body is seen briefly.
Sexual Content: There are scenes of a man and woman kissing. Adultery and illegitimacy are plot points. Men and women are seen in bed with each other in an obviously post-coital situation but there is no sexual activity.
Profanity: Profanity is in the single digits, with a sexual expletive (and another partial one), three scatological curses, a term of deity and a couple of minor profanities.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A main character frequently gets very drunk. A visiting author gets drunk. People drink alcohol at social situations. Men drink beer together in a bar. A man takes unidentified pills.
Page last updated October 8, 2022
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry Parents' Guide
Why does Maya’s mother leave her at the bookstore? What other options were available to her? How did the choices made by other people influence her decision?
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The book upon which this movie is based is The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, written by Gabrielle Zevin. It was inspired by George Eliot’s novel Silas Marner which can be read online for free at Project Gutenberg. Eliot was a prolific Victorian novelist and some of her most popular novels are Middlemarch, The Mill on the Floss, Adam Bede, and Daniel Deronda.
Edgar Allan Poe’s poem Tamerlane, owned by A.J. Fikry in the movie, can be read online here.
Related home video titles:
The Silas Marner story has also been adapted for film in A Simple Twist of Fate, a contemporary tale starring Steve Martin.
A young woman unexpectedly becomes a parent when her sister dies and she must assume responsibility for her three children in Raising Helen.
An irrepressible young orphan changes the heart of a cynical politician in Annie.
A couple of wanna be foster parents find themselves with more chaos than they can manage in Instant Family.
Booksellers are frequently used as protagonists in films. The Bookshop stars Emily Mortimer as a young woman determined to start a bookshop in a small English town – where she faces opposition from the town’s wealthiest woman. In You’ve Got Mail, a young bookstore owner has no idea that the man she’s fallen in love with online is the owner of the retail chain that is crushing her business. Hugh Grant stars as a bookseller who falls in love with a movie star after she visits his little shop in Notting Hill. In Miss Willoughby and the Haunted Bookshop, a clever young woman is approached by friends of her late parents to help them figure out what’s causing the unusual events in their store.