It says something about the power of Selznick's books that first Martin Scorsese and now Todd Haynes has lovingly adapted his beautiful stories into films that adults and older children enjoy. Like Scorsese, Haynes had never made a family-friendly film before tackling Selznick's unique dual-narrative story. In the book, Rose's 1927 arc is rendered via illustrations, while Ben's is in text; in the movie, Haynes tackles the contrast by making Rose's storyline a silent, black-and-white film with swelling, captivating music by composer Carter Burwell. Since audiences can't hear the 1920s dialogue, Haynes hired mostly deaf actors to play hearing characters. Back in Ben's timeline, we hear and see the bustling, gritty, colorful world of New York City in the late '70s -- except for moments when Haynes wants to emphasize Ben's new deafness. The contrasts are sharp -- color, sounds, and a full 50 years -- but the magical power of New York City (muggers, crowded streets, potential dangers, and all) is clear in both narratives.
The young actors do a terrific job conveying the frustration, curiosity, heartache, and wonder they feel (sometimes all at once). Moore, one of Haynes' on-screen muses and best collaborators, binds the story together, playing a character in each time period. Williams, who's always wonderful, doesn't disappoint in her small role as Ben's mom, who appears in several flashbacks. And each young main character has a standout helper: Ben nearly instantly makes a friend -- Jamie (Jaden Michael), a young Puerto Rican boy whose father is a security guard at the museum -- while Rose finds her much older brother, Walter (Cory Michael Smith), who takes in his little sister. Haynes remains true to Selznick's exploration of museums, curators, the World's Fair, theater, and the natural sciences, and it's such a joy to see a beloved book so well captured.