A Long Way Down (2014)

A Long Way Down (2014)

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The obligatory "all of the main cast in one shot" shot.
The obligatory “all of the main cast in one shot” shot.

Twitter Plot Summary: Four suicidal people meet accidentally on New Year’s Eve and vow not to kill themselves until at least Valentine’s Day.

Five Point Summary:

1. What a coincidence – four on the same roof.
2. A pact is formed. Media glory awaits. Or not.
3. A quick trip abroad.
4. The friendship goes sour.
5. Resolution. Everyone’s happy.

It’s not the first thing that pops into your head when you think of ideas for a charming “people discovering their place in the world” type of story, yet here we are with one featuring four suicidal characters who decide to jump off a very tall building in London on the cusp of the new year. From all walks of life – well, they’re all white and relatively middle class – the four choose to form a pact to not top themselves until at least Valentine’s Day, during which time they will all try and resolve their issues and dig themselves out of their proverbial holes.

At various points the narrative splits to provide each individual character’s perspective and their reasons for feeling suicidal, akin to the style followed in Nick Hornby’s original novel. Pierce Brosnan remains as entertaining as ever – in fact I’d say his choice of roles post-Bond have been nothing less than stellar. Here he’s a disgraced breakfast TV presenter who slept with a 15 year old girl and subsequently spent some time in prison. In my opinion Toni Collette has the best section of the story. Her character is a single parent looking after a disabled son, and from an emotional perspective her story thread is the most emotionally engaging. The remaining characters – a kooky Imogen Poots and a typically restrained performance from Aaron Paul as an American in London trapped in a job delivering pizzas – have plenty to do but their actions are almost lacking a purpose. This strikes me as a little odd given that they were suicidal – give me some definition to their lives and their reasoning and I might care.

Sam Neill! You deserve far better than this!
Sam Neill! You deserve far better than this!

From a casting perspective it’s also fun to note that it acts as a reunion of sorts – Poots and Paul appeared together in Need For Speed a couple of weeks back, and Poots also co-starred with Toni Collette in the 2011 remake of Fright Night. There’s nothing inherently spectacular about this fact, I just found it an interesting point to note.

As for the rest of it – there’s nothing engaging about the suicide angle. If the script had a point to make about such thoughts then perhaps it would be less of an annoyance, but it has literally no point to make about this. It’s a tricky subject to tackle, admittedly, but what works in the novel is not necessarily something that will translate to the screen. We need to care about these characters and, Toni Collette’s sequence aside, there’s practically nothing. I enjoyed the performances, but I can’t say I enjoyed the characters all that much, which is a real pity given the actors involved – even Sam Neill shows up as a politician – seriously, why are you in this? It’s always great to see Sam Neill, but I get the impression he just had a spare week in his schedule and slotted this in. That and he deserves far better roles than this.

Sadly the overall production and the subject matter at its core make A Long Way Down a difficult film to rate highly. All the characters end up in exactly the spot you expected them to be in, and there are no surprises to be found. It’s yet another story designed to be heartwarming but will probably just give you mild heartburn instead.

Score: 2/5

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