Stars: Stacie Stocker, Maria Patti, Susan Rienzo, Dillard Taylor and Jesse Michael-Geronimo Valencia
It's easy to see Eveline as yet another of Joyce's short stories that has a huge build but no payoff and it's easy to leave it empty and unfulfilled. However, there's a real truth here that I've witnessed myself often and I've personally gone through what Eveline finds that she can't. Everything in the story exists to lead up to her decision and it's the sum of it that makes the difference rather than any one piece. Eveline has a miserable life, one she dearly wants to leave behind, but that miserable life is all she knows. In the end, it'll always be better the devil you know even if the grass isn't as green, or some other mangled pair of proverbs. There are a lot of them that speak to this situation, because it's such a common one. I grew up in England, where I thankfully wasn't miserable like Eveline, but I left my family, country and life to move to another continent and get married. Ten years on, I haven't once regretted my decision, however much I miss the food, but I know many others who dream of doing the same thing but absolutely never will.
Mills's adaptation to the screen is an anorexic one indeed. I was surprised to find that it ran six minutes, as it feels like half that. Much of Joyce's story is built of memories and to adapt it faithfully would require a much more substantial shoot than was viable. I like what Mills brought in to replace them, a miserable pair of women from Eveline's work moaning about how she's leaving and talking down her chances. I'm familiar with bleating women like this (of both sexes) because I've had to listen to conversations just like this one while I was fixing their computers and they couldn't work in the meantime. They're the sort who are happy being unhappy and the best way to do that is to be jealous about someone else who might do what they know they never will. Maria Patti and Susan Rienzo are frustrating to watch because I've seen this so often, but they do it well. Unfortunately, the flipside of ditching all those memories is that Stacie Stocker has to find a way for Eveline to explain everything she's leaving with facial expressions.
While Dillard Taylor is a much more natural casting choice and he does very well with his few moments on screen, Jesse Michael-Geronimo Valencia has an even tougher task than Stocker. While Joyce had his Eveline fall for a sailor who's back in his home country for a holiday and wants her to sail away with him, Mills's contemporary version has an internet romance that leads to her driving out to Sky Harbor. It's the right update, but we only hear the object of Eveline's affections through a computer screen as we watch her face and that's a really tough set up to generate shared charisma. In the end, Valencia merely has to settle for matching Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's record in my mind as the actor with the most syllables in their name. I'm unsure as to what Mills could have done with this story, as a faithful adaptation would have been ten minutes of narrated montage leading up to a brief and unsatisfying ending. He tries for a better film than that but only manages to give us the bones, not the flesh.