Book Reviews: Screenplays/Plays

Smoke Signals by Sherman Alexie

Smoke Signals is the story of Victor and Thomas, two young Coeur d’Alene men who are traveling to Arizona to pick up the ashes of Victor’s estranged father. The relationship between the two has been complicated by pride and misunderstandings, but they manage to find their way through it on this journey together.

I must admit, I was unenthused about reading a screenplay, as I would much rather see the movie or read the book. A screenplay seemed to be in between the two forms of expression which really worked. But indeed, as Alexie claimed, this experience was a bit like reading poetry. By inserting beats throughout the text, he managed to transform it into an auditory experience, while the scene changes and carefully selected stills also enhanced the story’s visual appeal. Although this story was not wholly a comedy or a tragedy, Alexie managed to tell it with enough humour to ease the sadness and enough truth to capture the realities of life for many Aboriginal people.

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, but I appreciated the additional depth provided by the screenplay. Although the actors in the movie did an exceptional job at conveying their thoughts, the screenplay provided additional information often available to those who read a book prior to seeing the movie, only this time there were no disappointments at how something was portrayed in the movie versus the book.

Additional information for educators