The Waiting Room
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Roger Goldby
with Anne-Marie Duff, Ralf Little, Rupert Graves, Frank Finlay, Zoe Telford, Phyllida Law, Christine Bottomley, Adrian Bower, Daisy Donovan, Allan Corduner, Polly McCarthy, Finlay Tighe
release UK 6.Jun.08
07/UK 1h50
The Waiting Room
Face forward: Little and Duff

graves law corduner

edinburgh film fest

The Waiting Room There's a realistic tone to this gentle London romance, which stirs in comedy and physicality to bring the characters to life. It gets a little heavy in the end, but is utterly charming.

Anna (Duff) is raising her daughter (McCarthy) alone after her TV presenter husband (Bower) left. Her neighbour George (Graves) is unemployed, so while his wife (Telford) is at work, he brings his son (Tighe) over to play. And he pursues Anna, to liven up his stifled life. One day Anna has a chance encounter at a train station with Steve (Little), a nice guy who's having second thoughts about making a more serious commitment to his girlfriend Fiona (Bottomley). And now Anna and Steve can't get each other out of their minds.

There's a nearly comprehensive scope of relational issues here, with strained and broken marriages, relationships at crossroads, illicit flings and loads of self-doubt. There are even some older characters (Finlay and Law) in the nursing home where Steve works who offer their insights. This may seem a little too tidy, but writer-director Goldby is tellingly examining the grass-is-greener attitude, and how people who are always waiting for something better to come along can never be happy.

Each actor creates a fully rounded character packed with humour and emotion. Duff and Little are so likeable that we yearn for them to reconnect and get their lives back on track. Their performances are open and engaging, from the silly highs to the painful lows. Graves has the most thankless role as the somewhat slimy lout, but manages to bring a level of complexity that doesn't allow us to completely write him off.

The film is packed with daily awkwardness that we readily identify with. Everyone says they're fine, when they're clearly not, and when they finally confront each other the film has a startling dramatic power. It's full of strong messages about how we need to talk to each other (and sometimes to not talk) and how every relationship is a lot of work (if it's not, something's wrong). This may get a both too gloomy and cute in the final act, but it's an involving and challenging little gem.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 20.Aug.07 eiff

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2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall