Monday 22 September 2014

A Long Way Down

Though it has no doubt personally affected many of our lives, with the sudden and shocking passing of Robin Williams, the subject of suicide was on everyone's lips. It's a tricky subject to deal with, and more often than not it's not handled properly by the media. Be it news, film or even games, it's such a sensitive subject that everyone seems to put their foot in their mouth at some point. So with this in mind I decided to watch A Long Way Down preparing for it to, at the very least, mishandle this complex issue. However, while A Long Way Down isn't perfect, it's a somewhat honest take on depression, suicide and the various reasons that tend to lead many people down that sad path in life. It's a film that offers hope through friendship.

Directed by Pascal Chaumeil and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes A Long Way Down, a film based upon the 2005 Nick Hornby novel of the same name. Horny is the author who wrote About A Boy and Hight Fidelity, both of which were turned into huge movies. Hoping lightning strikes a third time, this latest adaptation of Hornby's work has been written by Jack Thorne. A Long Way Down follows four main characters, all of which inadvertently meet each other at the start of the film. The film opens with Martin Sharp played by Pierce Brosnan, struggling to drag a ladder up a flight of stairs to the roof of Toppers' House in London. Once at the top he creates a makeshift bridge over the barbed wire just off the edge of the building, and then proceeds to walk to the edge. It's then that he's interrupted by Maureen, seemingly another person who, much like Martin, intended on jumping off the Toppers' House. Both of them are further interrupted by Jess and JJ, again two more people who plan on ending it all on New Years Eve. After getting together and talking about it, the group of strangers all take part in a pact, to wait until Valentine's Day to come back to the roof. Between now and then plenty happens, and the film focuses on each of their lives, their pasts and, ultimately, their possible futures, if they choose to have one.

It's an interesting set-up, and while the group do go on holiday and get up to random shenanigans, the best moments of A Long Way Down come from their individual personal stories. These stories not only inform us on what kind of person these characters are, but also reveal the reason behind their suicide attempts. Much like real life, there are many different reasons why these four strangers were on that roof. For instance, Martin is a former TV presenter, disgraced after sleeping with an under-age girl. Maureen is the single mother of a severely disabled child, who believes that he can only receive proper care in the event of her death. Jess has been living under a cloud of depression for years, especially since her older sister went missing. And finally JJ claims to have brain cancer, though there may be more to his story than meets the eye. The film shines when it focuses on the smaller, more intimate moments in these peoples lives. However, the stand-out performance here comes from Toni Colette who plays Maureen. Apart from her incredibly authentic English accent, Colette is just wonderful here, especially when she speaks about her son and her reason for her suicide attempt. It's utterly moving and heartbreaking to say the least.

But though Colette's character is perfectly nuanced and well executed, everyone else seems to be a little muddled. Though I didn't want a typical Hollywood “Oh, this is why I shouldn't kill myself!” epiphany moment, every character apart from Maureen doesn't really change and evolve over the course of the film. It all comes across a little bit disingenuous and stale, especially because of the heavy subject at hand. It doesn't ruin the film, but if the characters of Martin, JJ and Jess were as well written and acted as that of Maureen, this film would be a must watch. Sadly, they're not and it isn't.

Overall A Long Way Down is a mostly good, but not outstanding. While it does make some missteps, it comes across as an honest, moving and personal tale about four strangers who find a reason to live through friendship. I don't get the critical hate it's receiving, as at the end of the day, it's quite a sweet little film.

A Long Way Down finds its feet and gets a 3/5


Denis Murphy

A Long Way Down at CeX

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