As is the problem with all book adaptations, the Harry Potter movies struggle between appeasing pedantic super fans and providing enough modification to warrant a cinematic retelling. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is the most successful film of the franchise in striking a pleasing balance between faithfulness and innovation. Director David Yates achieves this by respecting the novel’s sequence while also reevaluating the priority of plot points, in addition to finally asserting his presence as director.
With the world overrun by death–eaters and Hogwarts a distant memory, Harry (Radcliffe), Ron (Grint) and Hermione (Watson) embark on a journey to destroy the remaining horcruxes, crucial to defeating Voldermort. The pace–killing chapters of the book devoted to the gang’s extended camping trip are thankfully deemphasized and enlivened by enchanting cinematography and a close examination of the tension–filled group dynamic inherent in any threesome. It doesn’t hurt that both Watson’s and Radcliffe’s acting has vastly improved.
Yet this is more the director’s film than any other Potter installation, and the intimacy between Yates and the story proves to be the film’s greatest strength. Relationships among the protagonists are illuminated in a low–key, impressionistic manner, lending the film a heart that previous adaptations lacked. The death of loyal house–elf Dobby stands alone as an incredibly moving sequence — a rarity in adaptations. An animated sequence illustrating the tale of the titular Deathly Hallows also avoids this pitfall and is both unexpected and visually dazzling.
It’s fitting that this film, which marks the beginning of the end for the Potter phenomenon, should carry its maturity as a burden. A sad sentimentality settles over both the action of the film and the audience. Having grown up with these characters and given their tender depiction by Yates, we feel closer than ever to the world we will soon have to say goodbye to.
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part I
Directed by: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Rated PG-13, 146 min