Afterwards I read the F. Scott Fitzgerald story with the same title, and it seemed to me that we ourselves are living backwards, because the old story is crisp and unsentimental, and the new movie long, slow-moving, and nearly all soft edges. We younger ones are older.
Or, no. We like to think of ourselves as younger than the people who lived years ago, but we are the ones who live in an older culture. Even though F. Scott Fitzgerald would be terribly old -- 112 -- if he were still alive, he lived in a younger culture. So it's not backwards at all for us to be the ones who've gone all soft and sentimental.
Sentimental things that are in the movie but not in the story [spoiler alert]: baby Benjamin's mother dies in childbirth, his father is horrified by his old-man baby and abandons him on a doorstep, he's brought up by a kindly black woman, his love interest is named Daisy, he earnestly loves her all his life, she's a ballet dancer, she dances in the moonlight, she suffers a crippling injury, we see her as an old woman reminiscing and dying, there are churches full of histrionic black people, the Button family actually makes buttons, Benjamin sails the seas, Benjamin goes to Russia and to Paris, there's lightning, there's a hurricane, Benjamin carries his father down to the waterside to watch the sunrise, various characters philosophize about the transiency of life and the need to accept death, etc. etc.