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Skellig

Author: Irena Brignull
Genre: Fantasy/Drama/Family
Storyline: 8
Dialogue: 7
Characterization: 7
Writer’s Potential: 8

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Logline:

Upon moving into a new house, a boy finds a strange creature living in the shed.

Synopsis:

MICHAEL, 11 and small for his age, stands at the edge of a tower parapet, very high up. Below is a small lake. He looks up, arches his back, and dives.

Some time earlier, Michael helps his energetic father, DAVE, move furniture out of their city apartment. His mother, LOUISE, is eight months’ pregnant and helps with small things. Michael’s unhappy about the move, but Dave is happy to leave. They drive to the new house, a mammoth, ancient fixer-upper with a “Sold at Auction” sign out front. The house is at the edge of the city, butting up against endless woodlands. Michael is given an attic bedroom but is immediately terrified by huge spiders spinning webs and birds knocking against the windows. Dave promises Louise that he’ll fix the place up, but it will take time. Michael wonders why there’s no toilet. In lieu of explanation, Dave says the previous owner died in the house. This creeps Michael out. Michael wanders around the overgrown backyard. He finds an old shed, cluttered with bugs and animals. The next morning, Michael wakes to find sunlight streaming through an array of spiderwebs. He complains to Louise about the spiders, and Louise offers for him to stay home from school. When Louise says she wants him to help her set up the new baby’s room, Michael tells her he has a test and can’t stay home.

At the school’s large swimming pool, everyone watches as Michael’s best friend LEAKEY makes a perfect dive from the high board. MR. HUNT (the P.E. teacher) makes Michael attempt the same, but he’s afraid. He climbs to the top but can’t get out on the board. In the locker room, class clown COOT mocks Michael, but Leakey comes to his defense. At home, Louise works in the kitchen, listening to loud music. Michael’s in the backyard, eating a snack. Louise reaches for a high shelf, and suddenly feels pain in her abdomen. She calls out for Michael, who intentionally ignores her, not taking her seriously. Michael goes into the shed, braving the animals and insects — until a shadowy figure (SKELLIG) screeches for him to get out. Terrified, Michael runs away. He runs into the house and finds Louise collapsed on the floor. An ambulance rushes them to the hospital. Later, Dave comes into the waiting room and announces to Michael that he has a new baby sister. Michael isn’t thrilled, until he sees her looking right at him.

At home, Dave tells Michael he’s looked in the shed and that it’s full of old junk — he intends to throw it all away and tear the shed down. He forbids Michael from going near it. Michael helps Dave as he knocks down a wall. Feeling guilty, Michael asks if Louise wouldn’t have had an early labor if he had stayed home to help. Recognizing his son’s panic, Dave hands Michael the sledgehammer and tells him to pound the wall as hard as he can, until he lets all the aggression out. In the backyard, a black-haired girl named MINA introduces herself, then scurries away. Michael goes into the shed and finds Skellig. He asks what Skellig is and why he’s there, but Skellig insists that he go away. Back in the house, Michael overhears Dave talking with Louise about the fragile state of the premature baby.

The next day, Leakey provides Michael with a ticket for the county diving championships. He tells him to hold on to the ticket, because Michael’s the only one he has coming. Michael tells Leakey he found a homeless guy in the shed. Leakey tells him he’s most likely a crackhead that Michael won’t see again. In class, their teacher tells them to get out their textbooks. Everyone opens their desks — but hundreds of cockroaches stream out of Michael’s. Girls are horrified, Leakey stomps on some of them, and the teacher is speechless. Michael doesn’t know where they came from. That afternoon, Mina draws pictures of birds. She tells Michael she draws because it helps her see the details in the world. At the hospital, an elderly patient named GRACE sits next to Michael and talks to him about the baby. She tells Michael about her grown son and offers him an old grape. Michael’s uncomfortable.

Michael goes to the shed again and tells Skellig he needs to leave because Dave intends to tear down the shed. Skellig eats a snail, disgusting Michael. Michael offers to bring Skellig real food, asks if he’s a junkie. He says he wants to help Skellig, and Skellig tells him the only way to do that is forget about ever seeing him. In the yard, Mina asks about Michael’s sister. Michael asks Mina why he doesn’t see her at school; she’s home-schooled. Michael asks about her friends; she has none. Mina tells Michael about William Blake, who wrote poetry and saw angels in his backyard. Michael laughs. That night, Michael has Dave order food for Skellig (pretending it’s for him). Michael brings the food to Skellig with a flashlight, tries to sneak a good look at Skellig, who’s annoyed. Michael notices Skellig’s odd back, hidden by a coat.

At the hospital, Grace shows Michael photos of her own son, back when he was young. Michael tells Grace about Skellig, that he has arthritis. At home, Louise checks out Dave’s progress. She’s unimpressed overall. She mentions the shed, but Michael reminds Dave that he promised to build shelves first. At night, the baby’s noises wake Michael. The next day in gym class, Michael has to do the long jump. Mr. Hunt mocks Michael’s fear of heights, telling him not to jump too high. But Michael does jump high, and far, and when he turns around, nobody’s paid any attention.

Michael gives Skellig some aspirin and cola. Skellig is disgusted and asks for “brown ale.” Later, Dave can’t find any aspirin. Skellig has stolen the remainder, to Michael’s chagrin. Some time later, Leakey and Michael play in the woods. Michael catches sight of a hare and suddenly knows something’s wrong. He runs back to the house and finds Dave and Louise up in arms about the baby, who’s ill and needs to go back to the hospital. Louise blames Dave because the house is damp, drafty, and unheated. From the shed, Skellig hears the argument and covers his ears in anguish. When his parents take the baby back to the hospital, Michael decides to hack away the weeds and overgrown plants in the backyard. Skellig watches. Michael tells Mina about the baby, and Mina takes him to an ancient, crumbling tower in the woods (the one from the beginning). Mina tells him she used to come here when she needed to be alone and think, that she used to cry a lot after her dad died. Michael tries to cheer her up by hooting like an owl.

Michael tells Skellig about the baby, but Skellig doesn’t care. He says the baby’s means nothing in the long run. Michael asks to bring someone to see him, but Skellig hurls insults until Michael leaves. Michael asks Mina more about William Blake seeing angels. She believes angels and spirits are all around. Later, Michael asks Leakey about angels, and Leakey says he’s going nuts. Michael brings Mina to see Skellig — and he brings beer. Skellig is happier about the latter, but Michael is happy Mina sees Skellig. Dave tells Michael he’s going to tear down the shed. Freaking out, Michael jumps on his bed until the floor collapses, dropping him into his parents’ bedroom. Dave fixes the flooring in Michael’s room instead.

At the hospital, Grace wonders why Michael’s back. He explains. Grace gives him cod liver oil tablets for Skellig. Michael asked if she had a good visit with her son, but Grace remarks that he didn’t get the chance to visit. Michael visits the baby and begs for her to be strong and heal. That night, Dave is drinking heavily and wonders where all his beers are disappearing to. He has a fit of self-pity, telling Michael he was right, that they never should have moved, that he was being selfish. In the middle of the night, crashing in the yard wakes Michael. It’s Dave, drunkenly out to destroy the shed. Michael begs him to stop, but Dave makes him go back to bed. Dave grabs kitchen matches and gasoline and lights the shed up. Michael barely manages to pull Skellig from the burning shed, and he burns his hand in the process. Skellig slithers away into the darkness, while Dave consoles his weeping father.

Later that night, Michael wakes Mina to search for Skellig. They find him and bring him to the chapel in the tower. In the light of dawn, they realize he was never old — he’s actually a young, pale man. That day, Michael and Mina search through books for information about angels and evolution. Michael finds one showing that angels float rather than fly, and Mina finds one showing dinosaurs evolved into birds. She speculates that maybe birds evolved into man, and that’s where angels came from. She says some sweet, sappy things to him, which are overheard by Leakey and Coot. Michael runs off with them, and they ridicule him. Michael returns to Mina, who is angry that he ran off with his friends. Michael has some harsh words for her, as well, and they split up. Dave is working day and night, relentless. Later, Michael and Mina meet at the tower. Michael apologizes, and although Mina accepts, she says she’s still mad. They go to see Skellig, who’s stronger now. He reveals what’s wrong with his back — he actually has wings, which he lets stretch out. He grabs their hands and helps them levitate in the air. Michael notices the burn on his hand has healed.

Dave confronts Michael about the missing beer, lecturing him on alcohol abuse. Michael laughs, enraging Dave. Michael and Mina give Skellig the cod liver tablets and mouthwash. They take him to bathe in the small lake at the base of the tower. Skellig is unenthusiastic about this. At school, Michael reads the story of Icarus and Daedalus flying too close to the sun. Afterward, Michael encourages Skellig to save his ailing sister. Skellig doesn’t believe he can save anyone, but Michael encourages Skellig to fly — if he can fly, he can do anything. Meanwhile, Leakey has his diving competition — and Michael’s not there. Skellig tries to fly off the tower parapet, but he tumbles down to the lake. Panicked, Michael runs down the stairs, dives into the lake, and tries to get him. They both stay under the water — then Michael pops out, dragging Skellig out. He apologizes, and Skellig begs Michael to leave him alone.

Michael and Mina have a sleepover at her house. She explains more about her father’s death — he was “tired of living” — and Michael admits he never wanted the baby. He blames himself for her problems. Dave and Michael have a fight — Michael lashes out because both of his parents are abandoning him for the new baby. Dave reluctantly takes Michael to the hospital with him, and Michael seeks out Grace. Nurses tell him that she passed away. This crushes him. He runs out of the hospital, back to the tower. Leakey catches sight of him running through the woods, follows him. Leakey demands to know why Michael didn’t go to the diving competition. Michael is afraid to explain about Skellig, so Leakey runs into the tower. He is attacked by owls living inside, and Michael manages to drag him out. Leakey departs, bitterly.

Michael approaches Skellig and tells him he believes in him. The rain stops, clouds part, the sun comes out, aand Skellig grabs Michael’s hand and dives — they both float through the air, flying to the hospital. Skellig sneaks through the hospital, making sure nurses and doctors don’t see him, until he’s reached the room with the baby. He heals her. Somehow, Mina finds Michael asleep beside the tower lake. At the hospital, Michael finds the strong baby. Louise and Dave beam. Louise says she dreamed of a creepy angel protecting the baby. Dave thinks she’s going crazy. Michael names the baby Grace. The parents agree.

Michael and Mina rush to Skellig, bringing him the food he loves. Michael thanks him for saving his sister, and Skellig says she gave him strength — and so did Michael. Michael asks Skellig if he’s an angel. “Something like that.” He takes the fod and flies away for good. In the nursery at home, Dave and Louise reconcile. Michael goes to visit Leakey as he practices his dives at the school pool. They, too, reconcile. Michael and Mina run and play in the woods. Louise cleans up Michael’s room and finds his drawing of Skellig — she recognizes it from her dream. At the pool, Michael finally gets up on the high diving board. He’s about to jump when birds fly through an open window and drop a fortune cookie in his hands. Michael cracks it open and reads the fortune. It reads: “Something like you.” Michael makes the leap.

Comments:

This is an effective family story about fear, faith, and love. The writer does a really nice job with pacing and laying out this story and its various subplots. While she doesn’t go really in depth on any of the supporting characters (other than Mina), they have just enough to make each storyline satisfactory.

The only real stumbling block — which may, in fact, be a problem with the source material — is that the story, while well-told, isn’t much different from scores of other juvenile-literature fantasy books. The unique element, obviously, is Skellig himself, but he spends the bulk of the story as a surly enigma, then transforms into an angel with a heart of gold. This change comes a little too quickly and seems a bit unprovoked, even with Michael repeatedly begging him for help. What made him change his mind when he did? This could be made a bit clearer.

For a more minor nitpick, the subplot with Leakey is a bit extraneous; it serves no other purpose than to give Michael someone to talk to during the brief school scenes, and to cause conflict in the third act. His role is limited to a few brief scenes, so it’s not like the screenplay gets bogged down in unnecessary Leakey-related details. However, if he had just a little bit more depth and purpose within the story, the whole subplot would work a lot better.

Other than these small issues, the script works pretty well.

Fans of the original book will likely be happy with this adaptation; although the creepy elements might keep away extremely young children, the positive message (not to mention the adapter’s attempt to keep the religious undertones as secular as possible) will make this the kind of movie any family can enjoy together.

Posted by D. B. Bates on October 15, 2008 4:25 PM  |   | Print-Friendly  | Professional Script Coverage

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