Adapted by William Boyd from his best-selling novel for Channel 4, Any Human Heart tells the life story of Logan Mountstuart; an aspiring novelist, professional journalist, part-time spy and lifelong romantic, on his journey through the twentieth century.
Channel 4’s four-part serial may not be as good as the book, but then condensing the same depth of character experience into six hours of television was always going to be nigh on impossible, even for the author himself.
The screenplay is quite distinctly separated through the use of three different actors in the central role of Logan. Sam Claflin as the eager young graduate, Matthew MacFadyen occupying the middle years and Jim Broadbent as the ageing, reflective Englishman. The problem with this is that the actors’ instantaneous transition distracts too much from what should be steady, measured character development.
Slightly disappointingly, it’s former Spooks star Macfadyen who gets the lion’s share of the story and has a diminishing effect on the adventurous side of Logan’s character, with a far too austere and rigid portrayal of Mountstuart’s most eventful years.
Despite cameos and supporting roles from the likes of Kim Cattrall, Gillian Anderson and Tom Hollander, with everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Ian Fleming popping up along the way, it’s Hayley Atwell as Freya who steals the screen as the love that comes to define Logan’s life.
Central to the success of this adaptation is the superb attention to detail when it comes to recreating the different time periods and locations which Logan glides through. Sets and costumes have clearly been the subject of meticulous care and as such a sense of quality and authenticity shines throughout the production.
Yet for all its positive points, we return to where we started. It’s really not as good as the book. There’s just too much of Logan lost in the translation from the intimate diaries of the novel and it’s this richness of character that has undoubtedly made the book such a success. When considering your investment in time, the novel is where it would be best spent. Having said that, you could do far worse than simply soaking up the DVD this Valentine’s Day.
Released on DVD and Blu-ray on 27th December 2010 by Universal Pictures UK.