A Long Way Down
dir Pascal Chaumeil
scr Jack Thorne
prd Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey
with Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots, Sam Neill, Rosamund Pike, Tuppence Middleton, Joe Cole, Diana Kent, Shola Adewusi, Wilhelmina McFadden, Poppy Epstein
release UK 21.Mar.14
14/UK BBC 1h36
A Long Way Down
We're going in: Brosnan, Collette, Paul and Poots

neill pike middleton
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
A Long Way Down Based on the Nick Hornby novel, this film struggles to find a balance between black comedy, dark emotion and schmaltzy drama. It's a decent story with intriguing characters, but the script and direction play everything broadly, which makes the people and situations feel implausible.

On New Year's Eve, disgraced TV personality Martin (Brosnan) decides to leap from the top of a tower block in the City of London. But he's interrupted by the arrival of the mousy Maureen (Collette), the brassy Jess (Poots) and the secretive JJ (Paul). Taken aback, the four of them make a pact to stay alive until the next popular suicide night, Valentine's Day. And when a storm of publicity grews due to Martin's notoriety and the fact that Jess is the daughter of an unpopular politician, they opt for a holiday in the sun.

The subject matter allows screenwriter Thorne to explore some enormous themes, as each of these four characters have different reasons for wanting to end it all. This provides some strong resonance in the bleaker moments, but director Chaumeil never allows any of this to gain traction. For example, Martin's story has a timely ring to it, as he has just been released from prison after an underaged-sex conviction destroyed his family and career, but it's casually deflected by his opening comment that he thought she was 25.

The others aren't much more complex. Maureen is struggling on her own to care for her disabled but much-loved son, Jess is haunted by the disappearance of her sister, JJ says he has cancer but clearly has bigger self-esteem issues. The problem is that, aside from the initial impulse that put them atop that building, we never believe that these people are truly suicidal. And much of this is due to Chaumeil's decision to have the otherwise gifted actors overplay their scenes.

Even in the surlier roles, Brosnan and Paul have moments that ring badly false as they over-express themselves. And the plot strains to push these four disparate people together, only to drive them apart, of course, simply because screenplay structure demands it. So what could be a gentle black comedy about mortality and expectations becomes instead an awkwardly staged Richard Curtis-style comedy-drama with maudlin overtones.

cert 15 themes, language, some violence 17.Mar.14

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