At first glance it is hard to find similarities between the satirical world of Dickens’s classic novel Oliver Twist and the grim, sexual themes presented in Jacob Tierney’s film, Twist. The film is about a group of young boys, focusing on Dodge and Oliver, who are thrown into a life of drugs and prostitution. Dickens would find himself thrown for a loop if he was alive to see the changes not only in plot, but also the change in character. The same may be for Dickens fans, because Tierney takes the plot of the novel and creates quite a loose adaptation of Oliver Twist.
The film focuses on many of the underlying themes of the book, but they are presented in a radically different way. Tierney’s version brings many of Dickens’s concepts up to date using prostitution rather than pickpocketing. It is understood that the film is dealing with serious subject matter, but the classic comedic relief that is present in Dickens’s writing is nowhere to be found. There is not an ounce of sarcasm heard throughout the film, leaving a dull, dry taste in the audience’s mouth.
The film illustrates camera techniques that are representative of the typical indie-style film, using many “artsy” angels and interesting transitions. Doing all he can with such a low budget, Tierney provides shots of the characters that utilize metaphorical elements. He makes key artistic choices that are obviously meant to be symbolic, but almost come off as cheap and accidental. .
Nick Stahl brings a depth to Dodge’s character that is not felt in the novel. The choice to focus on him rather than Oliver was brilliant, seeing as the character is more complex than the latter. Stahl portrays heartbreaking addiction and spiraling hopelessness with a lot of emotion and soul. In fact, the best scenes of the movie all involve his character, particularly when his addiction is being revealed on screen. The depressed-junkie attitude is performed perfectly, stirring up feelings of both discomfort and empathy from the audience.
Tierney brings many different contemporary issues to light with this film. The sex trade is an extremely relevant issue. By presenting it in such a disturbing and in-your-face way, he is forcing the audience to face the reality of the issue. This film doesn’t hold anything back, expressing the pain that boys and girls face in real life. Tierney is attempting to highlight the terrible situations that many young people in poverty are faced with. Much like Dickens novel, the film illustrates the bad in society and urges people to take notice. Twist does a great job of forcing the audience to look at society and see all that is wrong with it, much like the novel Oliver Twist.
Tierney’s Twist is by no means an exact replica of Dickens’s novel. There is a severe lack of humor and wit throughout the film. Even so, Tierney tells his own story in the film, and the audience will be shocked by the story and find themselves attached to the classic characters of the novel in a new way. This “twist” on Oliver Twist is nowhere near perfect, but the empathy felt for the characters and the issues brought to light make it an interesting viewing experience that people should consider seeing.