Emma Watson became a household name with her character Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies. And why not so? One of the three main protagonists in the series, Watson had done a fantastic job at portraying the overachieving nerd with all her complexities on screen. But the last Harry Potter film came out seven years ago and the actor has so much more to offer now. Her performances in Beauty and The Beast (2017), The Bling Ring (2013) and My Week with Marilyn (2011) have been definitive proof to her brilliant craft. But what perhaps stands out in the actor’s filmography is her performance as Sam in the 2012 film The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Set in the early 90s, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming-of-age film with dark overtones. An adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s 1999 epistolary novel of the same name, The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows the story of Charlie Kelmeckis (Logan Lerman), a 15-year-old introverted yet bright Pittsburgh boy who just came out of clinical depression. While Charlie is still coping with the loss of his best friend Michael, he is trying to adapt to a more normal lifestyle as a young high school student trying to make new friends. And his biggest support system comes in the brother-sister duo, Sam and Patrick, both essayed beautifully by Emma Watson and Ezra Miller.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower was Emma’s first major post-Harry Potter role and while fans were still not over her Hermione image, Watson completely redesigned herself as Sam. It was not just her pixie cut but the way she dealt with the rebellious and popular high school girl. Not to mention, Sam was the polar opposite of Hermione, she was an effervescent yet troubled soul, still trying to figure out where she belongs.
As Sam, Emma Watson’s strength lay in the silent moments of the film where she spoke so much without using as many words. While the film majorly focuses on Charlie, Watson does stand out in her performance as Sam. And considering the stellar set of actors in the film besides Watson, that is a huge compliment.
One of the standout scenes from the film comes when Sam stands up in the back of the pick-up truck while Patrick is driving them through a tunnel. It is a stunning and mesmerisingly poetic sequence. And while Watson herself is vivacious in the scene, it is the impact she has on Charlie that makes it even more beautiful. Talking about the particular scene to Entertainment Weekly, Watson said in a previous interview, “I started as Emma with some Hermione still left in my system. But I went through the tunnel and I came out ready to start something new.”
Another touching scene is the one where Charlie and Sam share their first kiss. When Charlie reveals that he has never been kissed before, Sam leans in and tells him that she wants his first to be from someone who loves him and goes on to kiss him. The beauty of it lies in how Watson is able to give an insight into Sam’s compassionate soul even in a tricky situation like this.
In fact, she imbibes the character so smoothly, so intimately, that for a moment, you even forget that it is Emma Watson the actor who played the uptight Granger on screen. She has an exuberance around her that makes you really feel for the girl. Watson handles it with utmost care, letting her character shine in the most unexpected ways.