Director: Pascal Chaumeil; Screenwriter: Jack Thorne; Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, Aaron Paul, Rosamund Pike, Sam Neil; Running time: 96 minutes; Certification: 15
Many critics have been terribly sniffy about director Pascal Chaumeil’s adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel about a group of four misfits who, on New Year’s Eve, enter a pact not to kill themselves before Valentine’s Day. Indeed, suicide is a touchy subject matter and can be very easily misdealt in fiction. In some regards it’s easy to see where critics have lost faith with Chaumeil’s film; it often blurs the line between dealing with depression on the one hand optimistically but on the other quite flippantly, and sometimes feels like it lacks the strength of its own convictions. Yet such issues, apparent though they are, couldn’t prevent me from being ultimately won over by one particular factor which is firmly lodged in the right place: the film’s heart.
Initially it’s something of a challenge to get involved in the story because of first act plot contrivances and slight haphazardness with pacing, but once we’ve had a chance to draw breath and find our way in, there’s a wonderful time to be had. Sure there’s nothing particularly profound or awe-inspiring going on, nothing that really digs into us too deep, but the script is funny, sweet and charming while always clinging onto that central idea of companionship conquers adversity. The saccharine tones are strong, but not overpowering, and there’s a real happiness of spirit bubbling through the narrative. Ultimately it’s a story of redemption and growing to accept oneself, and if other films have told similar stories more elegantly or subtly, there’s nothing taking away from the ultimate uplifting mood come end credits – and let’s be honest, who doesn’t need that once in a while?
The performances are all really good – Imogen Poots, teaming up with Aaron Paul for the second time in two weeks after Need For Speed, is once more the standout, which is no small feat when she’s up against the likes of Pierce Brosnan and Toni Collette. Their chemistry as a foursome is bright and sparky, clearly showing there’s an ease of collaboration between them. Also, Aaron Paul is just a cool dude.
There’s every chance this one will be quickly forgotten (especially if audiences heed the general critical backlash) because in truth it doesn’t have a strong backbone. You just need to look at a film like The Virgin Suicides to notice the gap between a graze and something which really cuts deep, yet while watching A Long Way Down there’s never really a sense that it’s too interested in treating us that way. It wants to fall on the lighter side, and does just that.