A Long Way Down (2014) – Review

Directed by Pascal Chaumeil
Written by Jack Thorne from Nick Hornby
Starring Pierce Brosnan, Imogen Poots, Aaron Paul, Toni Collette

If you’re good at your job. I mean really good at it, alot of the time, you can simply pass by unnoticed. If you’re not, say, the star of a movie, but work in the casting department instead, for example, then doing a great job will mean that people don’t actually mention you. The simple fact that what you have achieved is not out of the ordinary and seems natural is a good thing. It’s maybe when you get it wrong that people go the trouble of looking you up. Bad news travels five times as fast as good news, after all.
Take a look at the photograph above. Four perfectly recognisable faces. Four admittedly excellent actors. All of these players are notorious for their talents. Granted, some more than others, but nonetheless, they didn’t get where they are today by being crap at their job. Not one of them.
If you were a casting director, and not many of us are, would you (even with your limited experience) have picked these actors to perform in a movie together? Just because you can does not mean that you should (thank you Jeff Goldblum) is a very good philosophy and it should certainly have applied here.
I’m sorry but this just feels all wrong. Four people meet, quite by accident, when considering suicide on New Years Eve. They all pick the same tower block to hurl themselves off the top of, but when they realise they are not alone, they relent and decide to make a pact. Instead of killing themselves that very night, they will wait until Valentine’s Day to do it instead. The initial reason for deciding firstly not to kill themselves there and then plus the reason for choosing this new date to do it instead is not really quite clear or at all convincing, but still, they agree to this pact regardless.
Nick Hornby’s novel is exactly that. The choice to turn this decidedly odd story into a movie is possibly not quite as well considered. Brosnan plays a disgraced television presenter, who has served time for having sexual relations with an under-aged girl, who he says he thought was over the age of consent. After being released, with his life in tatters, he feels he has little left to live for. Imogen Poots’ character is a spoilt little rich girl, daughter of a shadow minister (Sam Neill) who really hasn’t had the opportunity to hate life enough to want to see the back of it. Toni Collette’s Maureen, probably the most pleasing, redeeming and believable of these characters has a disabled son and has devoted her life to him, leaving no chance for any kind of life for herself. The last of this quartet is J.J. played by Aaron Paul, a young, already washed out, musician that enjoyed some brief flirtations with success before ending up delivering pizzas to make a living.
As far as the actual acting goes here, there is no shortage of quality, but with the exception of Maureen, there is little for the audience to get a grip on, with all of the remaining characters coming off as needy and selfish, which are not traits that audiences are likely to find endearing. The film is predominantly depressing throughout, with suicide, loneliness, regret and despair being the uppermost themes present. Even a trip abroad for the group, in order to escape the clutches of the British press who are alerted to the story, does not bring much in the way of light relief.
There is some effort made to make this resemble a black comedy, but the laughs are few and far between the darkness which is prevalent. The screenplay is not accomplished to the extent that in those moments of pause, where the actors truly get to shine, they are able to do so, as the words often do not match the abilities of those speaking them.
Overall, an unusual novel, cast unusually and lacking the fundamental soul required to give either cast or audience sufficient closure. This just did not feel rounded enough and this lack of engagement will leave you feeling a little hollow.

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