Director’s Cut: "The Orange" by Wendy Cope: A Film Proposal

Image Credit: Nurina Iman Nizam

Nicola Kenny commends the simplicity of the poem "The Orange", and imagines how it would play out as a film.

Wandering around Edinburgh on a summer's day, I stumble across a crumbling second-hand bookstore. Weaving around the unwavering piles of stories and the mountains of curious texts on dusty shelves, it catches my eye: Serious Concerns by Wendy Cope. After a difficult year, the title immediately resonates with me, and as I leaf through the tattered pages, I discover and find great solace in a poem titled "The Orange". 

Cope’s delight at having bought 'a huge orange', which she shares with two friends, is the poem's central expression. This simple exercise in Cope's life makes her reflect on her newfound appreciation for the company of others and the beauty of life's ordinary moments. Cope hints that this sense of joy and tranquillity has come after a period of depression, while the last line of the poem suggests she is freshly in love and treasures her existence. 

While adapting a poem as a film presents some challenges, it ultimately offers many creative opportunities. "The Orange" is exact, yet it has an abstract quality. While the poem suggests many things, several details are omitted, leaving the reader to interpret and imagine how it might be expanded and developed as a longer form story. 

I imagine that this film would take place in Edinburgh, Scotland, during the festival season. An unnamed character would find herself living alone after a dark period of difficulty. The story would follow the characters development (think The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as she opens up to new experiences and makes close friends who change how she understands herself and her experiences. Moving on from the past, she would slowly find her feet and learn to see the wondrous joy and beauty of the world around her once again. 

For this production, it would be desirable to assemble a diverse cast of young lesser-known Scottish, English, and Irish actors. The story would be directed with great sensitivity by someone like Hettie MacDonald (Normal People) and filmed by the brilliant Kate McCullough (Arracht), who would capture the story's rawness and intimacy, while paying homage to Scotland's beautiful natural landscape. The style of the piece would be abstract and poetic.

As the film comes to a close, the audience would be left with a universal message about overcoming difficulty and finding love for ourselves in the simple moments shared with others. As Cope writes, "I love you. I'm glad I exist."