It's a common experience to read a book slated for a film adaptation and then approach the movie, if at all, with a trepidation bordering on fear. As an optimist who doesn't get too offended when his favorite stories get changed for a different medium, I generally try to minimize that reaction. Yet that is exactly how I feel about Stephen Daldry's imminent adaptation of Bernhard Schlink's The Reader. A large part of me is convinced that Schlink's lovely, challenging little novel – almost more of an essay than a novel, really – can't possibly survive Daldry's questionable prestige picture instincts. The book demands a small film, melancholy, withdrawn. Can we get that from one of the year's big Oscar hopefuls?

The logline IMDb plot summary [Ed.: corrected upon being informed that this is not the official studio "logline"] is already all wrong: "Nearly a decade after his affair with an older woman came to a mysterious end, law student Michael Burk is reunited with his former lover (Winslet) as she defends herself in a war-crime trial." No. I'm loath to give too much away, but "reunited" is not the right word. In fact, the lack of a bona fide reunion between the two is part of what makes the novel so interesting, and the reason for that lack of reunion is at the heart of the moral questions it grapples with.