By Sophie Humphrey
I was an avid reader as a teenager, especially obsessed with the Young Adult section in my local library, and ate up every trope and cliché I read about. In later years, my interest in reading for pleasure dwindled to the point of barely reading at all.
My love for consuming media turned towards tv-shows and movies, with book-to-film adaptations taking the place of actually reading said books.
Recently a friend excitedly talked to me about the tv adaptation of their favourite book series, Daisy Jones and The Six, “You should watch it” she said “the books are so good!”.
As I was watching I realised something: Sam Claflin has been in a lot of book adaptations and now he is playing Billy Dunne as the front-man of The 1970s rock band, The Six in the Amazon Video adaptation.
So here I am thinking about how so many of my favourite movies somehow have a connection to Sam Claflin. After a week of binge-watching and countless lists, here is my ranking of his portrayal of characters adapted from books, from best to worst.
The ranking will cover likeability, charisma, depth and reliability, to ensure a well-rounded grading.
Finnick O’Dair: The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.
There was no debate in my mind of where Finnick O’ Dair deserves to be on this is, and that is number one.
We’re introduced to his character in Catching Fire, the second movie in the serie, as the winner of the 65th Hunger Games, which he won at fourteen years old. Both mediums allow for a simple introduction, making it clear he is going to be a key character for the rest of the story.
The prime reason why Finnick is ranked number one is because of his likeability in the film. Whilst I cannot compare the other book versions of the characters on this list, Claflin’s portrayal of Finnick is as if he stepped right out of the book. Finnick is fun, flirty and apparently, very into sugar cubes!
As a favourite of the Capitol, Finnick is charming and empathetic and he cares for others. The movies go on to show Finnick’s multiple relationships with the people he cares about as allies, like Katniss and Peeta, as friends such as Joanna Mason, and romantically through Annie Cresta, his girlfriend, and subsequently, wife.
He isn’t a shell of a character like many of the other victors in the first film and he is fleshed out to the point where his death feels cheap on screen. As Finnick joins squad 451 on their mission into President Snow’s mansion, they are attacked by Capitol mutts, a weird mix between lizards and humans.
It does not make sense that Finnick, incredibly skilled in combat gets his head bitten off by some mutated creatures and then has to be killed by Katniss to stop the mutts following the rest of the group.
It is a lacklustre way to close out his character and is only redeemed by the fact that he doesn’t die in vain.
Claflin oozes charisma throughout the whole performance. Strolling into his first scene, it’s obvious that Finnick is gorgeous and his popularity has allowed him to ahead in life.
Sex appeal is a useful tool in the Capitol, it is even implied that Finnick trades “sex for secrets”, meaning the boy has a knack for using his talents to require useful information.
While he is not at the forefront of the rebellion, he’s a natural crowd-pleaser, which is perhaps his greatest strength, and inevitable downfall.
There is no doubt that Finnick is a fleshed-out character in both the movies and the books. His relationships and selflessness motivate him to win the Quarter Quell finding allies in Katniss and Peeta.
The reason he’s marked down is because his relationships do not get enough screen time. His mentor, Mags, dies within the first few minutes of covering the Quarter Quell, and she becomes an afterthought in his story.
In his romantic relationship, we are led to believe Finnick is in love with his long-term girlfriend and later wife Annie Cresta, winner of the Hunger Games herself and who went insane watching one of her fellow tributes killed. However, we only see tidbits of their relationship. There is nothing in the films that convinces me that this is the love of his life, so the relationship falls short.
Aside from this romance, his complexity is the key trait adding depth to his character.
He is described as handsome and chiseled in the books, but as he reveals he was prostituted to the Capitol elites for it, he doesn’t seem to consider himself a victim, as he admits to exchanging those favours for secrets making him useful to the rebellion effort against the Capitol.
O’ Dair is the last person you would expect to be a victim of something so horrific. And yet this experience his character brings to the table is relatable to anyone who has ever been exploited, blackmailed or even controlled by somebody else.
This may be used to show the awfulness of the Capitol and how corrupt the Panem’s society really is. It also shows how victims of assault come in all shapes and sizes, even those society expects it the least.
Billy Dunne: Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Billy Dunne from Hazelwood, Pittsburgh is a character cliché, a confessed rock star bad boy who loves all the things you’d expect: sex, drugs and rock and roll. Starting out as the lead singer of the Dunne Brothers band with his younger brother Graham and his friends Eddie Roundtree, Warren Rojas and Chuck Loving.
Billy Dunne is a very hard character to root for. He starts off writing songs and singing for fun when he agrees to join and ends up taking over the Dunne Brothers band. As the 1970s emerged, the band is playing regular gigs and builds a small fanbase.
At this point, he is just another singer chasing a dream, haunted by the absence of his alcoholic father. He has star power and his hunger to make it as a musician fuels his ego and arrogance throughout his career.
His stubbornness is what makes him likeable yet insufferable at the same time. Billy’s determination helps the band to get in touch with a record producer Teddy Price, who turns into a surrogate father to him and gives the band their big break.
Billy is known to be one to take and take from others and not give anything back. His selfishness is shown throughout the series as he abandons his pregnant wife for a tour where he cheats on her in a haze of booze and drugs and then, after regaining her trust he goes on to have an emotional affair with band-mate Daisy Jones (Riley Keough).
Billy is not a particularly charismatic character. He has a way with the ladies but this only seems to be in his alcoholic partying haze and when he is onstage. Otherwise, he is avoidant and arrogant and does not like to consider others points of view.
He is a charismatic performer, just not enough to maintain long-lasting and meaningful relationships in his 20s. He highlights his cowardice when telling Daisy their relationship is just ‘an act’ for the public.
Throughout the show, Billy is plagued by alcoholism, which helps to explain his erratic behaviour and ego. It serves as one of his defining character traits which he carries with him for years as he “does not want to become like his father”.
Claflin portrays Billy’s conflicted emotions surrounding music, parenthood and love. He is constantly at war with himself to stay faithful to his family or to stray towards his demons.
However, there is a lack of scenes between Billy and his brother Graham and their bandmates aside from Daisy. We know Daisy is Billy’s mirror, she also struggles with addiction and her relationship with her parents.
It’s hard to believe that Billy views his band as family past episode 3 rather than as puppets in his mission to create everything in his image. He cares far too much about his image and artistry and is unwilling to collaborate with the band until Daisy comes along. He only appears caring towards his daughter, who he bonds with after attending rehab.
As a 40-something-year-old, Billy’s demons seem to have faded and he has lived up to his responsibilities in raising his daughter and honouring his late wife’s memory. However, with Daisy Jones lingering in his mind, his character becomes regressive as he goes back to the one thing he could not escape.
Being famous is not something many of us can relate to yet the struggle to face our demons is what gives Billy such a high ranking. Addiction in Hollywood is a decades-old tradition, but the refusal and fear to become vulnerable and open up to people is something we can all understand.
Through his love, Billy is a beacon of hope for those battling demons that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. His light comes from Camila and his daughter, who guide him back to the right path.
It is crucial that Billy faced temptations along the way on his path to recovery, because as people we cannot heal and overcome our demons without setbacks.
When Billy relapses Claflin shows in his maddening smile that he has hit rock bottom. He finally acts on his feelings for Daisy and only kisses her when he thinks his wife and child have left him for good.
Without the band or his wife, Billy becomes a shell of a person and finally realises that he can’t go on and needs to go back home.
Will Traynor: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
It is not a secret that Will Traynor starts as a cynical arsehole. He’s rude, blunt and unwilling to engage with his new caregiver Louisa Clark (Emilia Clark). However, his response to being run over is understandable. As a quadriplegic, Will can only move his face and sometimes his hands so he requires around-the-clock care. Going from a ‘finance bro’ living a high life in London with a leggy blonde to a disabled man with limited movement would be a difficult transition for anyone.
Will’s character development is something akin to a rollercoaster ride. Throughout the film, you sympathise with him because the changes in his life would be enough to leave anyone traumatised.
He has accepted this situation, which explains why he is distant and cold towards Lou, until she makes him feel alive again. He lets himself feel again and enjoys the six months he has given to his parents until he goes to Switzerland to be euthanized.
Above all else, Will lives with his quintessential dry British humour which Claflin delivers flawlessly. Will is selfless in a way where Billy Dunne is not, to the point where he’d rather end his life prematurely than cause further stress to his parents or Lou.
He is selfless with Lou and leaves her with a heartfelt letter and money for her to “spread her wings”.
In his prime, Will was a charmer, a high-flyer with a successful businessman role. Even after his accident, he remains charismatic and charming as he wins over Louisa’s family, who seems to prefer him over her fitness freak beau Patrick.
Claflin’s acting is alluring in his scenes with Clark and the chemistry between the two actors fills the screen.
You would think a character archetype like Will Traynor would be boring, a rich spoiled businessman with the typical ridiculously hot girlfriend who lost everything. Instead, he lives his whole life for everybody else and only lets somebody in when he realises he is nearing the end of his life.
Complicated is the word to describe Will Traynor. He can be considered controversial for wanting to end his life, which one may consider to be selfish as it could be to put himself out of his misery.
However, it’s explained as a mixture of his desire to ease his family’s pain, indicating he is more than a surface-level cynic. He comes across as funny and ill-mannered, yet it is clear he is in pain but he takes it in his stride.
He is as wild as he is sarcastic, and as heartbroken as he is angry about his condition.
Having a disability is common for a huge part of the UK, however for most of us it’s hard to identify with such a dramatic life change for most of us.
He has a lot of defining British traits – an affinity for sarcasm, a need to rush around and stay busy and a tolerance for extreme weather conditions, even with his disability.
The internal conflict of whether to burden his parents with his problems is something many of us struggle with throughout our lives. Will’s ultimately decides his existence is not worth his pain, nor the pain of Louisa, or his parents.
Alex Stewart: Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern
Alex Stewart is an average sixth-form student who lives in a charming small town with best friend Rosie Dunne, with the dream of becoming a doctor. He is a bit of a playboy with a love for all things blonde.
This may be controversial, but the on-screen Alex Stewart is not likeable. In his teen years, he is nice and sweet to Rosie (Lily Collins), but he does not have any recognisable character traits that make him stand out, aside from being a heartthrob.
The linear structure of the film follows the friendships and journey of Rosie Dunne’s young adult life from pregnancy, motherhood, marriage and everything in between.
Alex’s role in this journey is to make Rosie second-guess herself and her decisions. He tries to run back to her whenever his relationship with his blonde girlfriends is due to crash and burn.
Both of them are unlikeable in their own right, because they are so intertwined with each other. Alex never lets Rosie go and dares to tell her not to marry her daughter’s father, Greg, in a letter he sends whilst he is in relationship.
Angst is great for a slow-burn romance, but when the whole movie relies on the will-they-won’t they and almost moments, it’s hard to feel invested.
Alex is attractive and the ladies love him. The character is shallow and very two-dimensional, all we know about him is: he loves Rosie, he likes blondes and he wants to be a doctor.
The chemistry between Collins and Calflin is the only thing that makes Alex bearable, and his only positive quality is his love for Rosie and her daughter. Other than that, there is nothing much else to say about him.
Just because you are writing a love interest, does not mean that is all the character has to be. We know Alex is handsome and popular, but what else is there for him?
There is nothing about his life aside from him partying it up at college and his father wanting him to attend Harvard. We don’t know anything about his relationship with his parents or his sister, as they hardly appear at all.
Relationships can make or break a character, and in this case the lack of care towards Alex’s development makes him nothing but Rosie’s boyfriend.
Again, the identifying factor with the character of Alex is his love for somebody who doesn’t know. Secret crushes and lingering feelings are something that most humans have experienced, especially for a close friend.
That is where the audience’s things in common with Alex end. He is a good friend to Rosie, helping her through her dad’s death, but he pines for her for years.
Mycroft Holmes: The Enola Holmes Mysteries by Nancy Springer
Mycroft Holmes is the older brother of the infamous detective Sherlock Holmes. He’s arrogant, misogynistic, and thinks he believes to be in charge of his siblings lives as he sends his sister Enola Holmes off to finishing school.
Although he is not a main character in the Enola Holmes films, Mycroft’s brief appearance is a good reason for him to be ranked last. Mycroft has no regard for the women in his life and in the era of women’s suffrage he is determined to keep his power and put his free-spirited sister in her place.
Entering Ferndell Hall, he scoffs at his mother’s feminist books as well as criticising the way she has raised Enola. Considering both of the Holmes brothers were away for years, Mycroft has a lot of audacity stepping back into his ‘man of the house’ role without a second thought.
Enola challenges his authority and as soon as he is able Mycroft consults his friend and headmistress of a finishing school, Miss Harrison to help Enola find a husband.
He may be a man of his time politically speaking, but Mycroft Holmes has no regard for the feelings of others and has an incessant desire to be in control.
With his money and influence, he thinks he can bully others into bending to his will and he even hires a detective to capture his sister after she escapes from her finishing school.
By the film’s climax, he has ‘washed his hands of Enola’, and does not care to even find his sister anymore.
Powerful men need to have the charisma to be taken seriously. Police constable Lestrade takes Mycroft’s offer to find his sister only when he is offered a reward for it.
Influence is something Mycroft is handed and not something he has earned. Maybe a part of why people listen to him is because he is threatening, but also because he happens to be the brother of an infamous and very successful detective.
Standing alone, Mycroft’s greatest tool is his money and his biggest weakness is how proud he is. He constantly refers to Enola as his ‘ward’ as if she is a piece of property and not his flesh and blood.
He cannot stand to be proven wrong and when he is his mask slips, and all ounces of his charisma vanish.
Clalfin’s screen time is limited in the film and as he did not appear in the 2022 sequel, we cannot say much about Mycroft’s development. In his twisted way, he does care for his sister. He wants a solid future for her but the only path he sees is marriage.
Perhaps if he were receptive to other ideas I would consider him a deeper character. Instead, Mycroft’s proud nature ruins his chance of any growth and remains a distant figurehead for the Holmes family, and nothing more.
Pressure to be the head of the house and to take care of everyone is something older siblings struggle with whether they are male or female. In the Victorian era, the oldest man of the house would assume responsibility for his younger siblings, political affairs and the family estate, so Mycroft’s position is accurate to the time.
Comparing this in 2023, a lot of young men are still expected to stand up and ‘be a man’ to take charge of their family affairs regardless of whether they want to.
This is where Mycroft Holmes’ similarities to us end. He is a product of his time, a man who is not open to change or free speech and someone who appears to have a distaste for the lower class. In a modern democratic world, I just know he would not survive.