Friday, September 4, 2020

Sarah Warburton's "Once Two Sisters"

Sarah Warburton is the oldest of four sisters, raised in Virginia, and an avid reader and knitter. She has a B.A. in Latin from the College of William and Mary, an M.A. in classics from the University of Georgia and another from Brown. Warburton has worked at independent bookstores--Page One Books in Albuquerque and Books on the Square in Providence--and spent ten years as a writer, which led her to become lead editor for UpClose Magazine. Her short story "Margaret's Magnolia" appeared in Southern Arts Journal, and her Pushcart prize nominated story "Survival English" appeared in Oyster River Page. Now she lives with her family--husband, son, daughter, and hound dog--in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia.

Here Warburton dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Once Two Sisters:
I wrote Once Two Sisters with a very clear sense of setting in mind, but the two main characters, older sister Ava and younger sister Zoe, were always standing right behind me, directing my gaze. Because the novel is alternating first person, it’s almost like they are the camera and we experience the story through them. Stepping back to include Ava and Zoe in the frame was a lot of fun.

Ava is cerebral, successful and driven. Although she’s very much in control, once she’s in physical danger, she discovers she can be just as much of a fighter as her younger sister. I think Shailene Woodley would be great in this role. She’s got a great way of playing a character with secrets. She can be reserved, and yet hint at the passion underneath. And Ava is the character who’s literally in a life or death situation, and Shailene Woodley has also nailed action roles. She combines controlled strength with the capacity for great emotion.

Zoe is the rebel, the younger sister who burns her old identity and starts a new life under an assumed name. She’s angry, resentful, impulsive, and yet longs for a loving family. I would love to see Chloë Grace Moretz in this role, delivering a strong, sarcastic performance. Especially interesting would be the moment when Zoe realizes that this isn’t some kind of publicity stunt. I think Moretz could do a great job transitioning from defensive anger to guilt-driven fear for her sister’s life.

For their brilliant, yet cold parents, maybe Laura Linney and John Slattery. I think they would play the “worst family dinner ever” scene brilliantly, yet somehow we’d root for this terrible dysfunctional family to come together.

And thinking about a director who could interweave two different narratives, keep the focus on character and family front and center, while still making what is, after all, a thriller, I kept coming back to Susanne Bier, director of In a Better World and Bird Box. Once Two Sisters would be a film where the family dynamics make the audience squirm just as much as the scenes in the missile silo.
Visit Sarah Warburton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue