TMN Movie Review: "A Long Way Down"

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Four people meet on New Year's Eve and form a surrogate family to help one another weather the difficulties of their lives.
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Rating: R
Length: 96 minutes
Release Date: June 5, 2014
Directed by: Pascal Chaumeil
Genre: Comedy / Drama

For lovers of dark comedy, "A Long Way Down" is an engaging and entertaining film. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots, the movie tells the story of four people who are struggling to deal with individual traumas. With its star-studded cast and lighthearted script, "A Long Way Down" has something for everyone.

"A Long Way Down" opens on New Year's Eve on the roof of a skyscraper in London. Martin Sharp (Brosnan) is lingering on the top of the building, gathering the courage to end his life. His plans are cast aside when Maureen (Collette) appears on the roof. Depressed and disillusioned, she, too, is planning to jump. Jess (Poots), the daughter of a high-profile London member of Parliament, appears, followed closely by JJ (Paul). Each has the same plan: to jump off of the building.

As the film progresses, audience members learn about each person's troubles. Martin is a disgraced television host who did a stint in prison. Maureen's life is completely taken up by her disabled son. Jess' relationship with her father is damaging and painful. JJ, on the other hand, can't face the idea of living with his terminal disease.

Unable to go through with their plans, the four make a pact to stay alive and form a support group of sorts to carry them through until Valentine's Day. Martin, scheming for a return to fame and fortune, devises a plan and transforms the group into bonafide London celebrities. After a wild media ride and an island escape, the four are forced to face their problems head on.

"A Long Way Down" is based on the novel of the same name by Nick Hornby. The movie follows the narrative structure of the book, with each character taking turns telling the story. Though the constant switching makes the plot feel slightly disjointed, it gives the audience a deeper look into each character. As they talk, each of the four leads emerges as a whole person, complete with individual joy and sorrow. Given the difficult subject matter, the alternating narrators are ultimately successful at lending extra emotion and dimension to the film.

Despite the central theme of suicide, "A Long Way Down" is a surprisingly lighthearted film. It does not make fun of the terrible circumstances that each of the central characters faces but portrays them with a careful blend of humor and sensitivity. Director Pascal Chaumeil, a veteran of romantic comedies, infuses his trademark "meet cute" style cleverly into the film, giving it a feeling that is wholly unexpected and entirely enjoyable. As a result, it is appealing to all types of movie fans, from romance lovers to drama aficionados. Though the movie is not entirely faithful to the novel's tone and style, it stands on its own.

The major appeal of "A Long Way Down" is its immensely talented cast. Brosnan is perfectly cast as Martin, the vain and downtrodden TV presenter. He steps into the character fully, creating a believable person who is simultaneously repulsive and adorable. Brosnan, with his characteristic charm and good looks, helps Martin transcend from sleazy to sympathetic.

Toni Collette gives a predictably spectacular performance as a sad, weary single mother. Her considerable acting talents are all put to work for the role of Maureen, who loves her son dearly but cannot gather the strength to go on. In her trademark style, Collette carries off a performance that is subtle, nuanced and completely endearing. She is the perfect foil for Poots, who creates a bizarre and lovable Jess, and Paul, the token American in the group. Paul, fresh off his award-winning stint on "Breaking Bad," is particularly captivating as the terminally ill pizza-delivery boy. He captures and internalizes his character's emotions, leaving viewers heartbroken at the thought of his fate.

"A Long Way Down" moves swiftly through its 96 minutes, leaving audiences satisfied at the end. Each plot twist is timed perfectly, so viewers do not have the chance to get complacent. That, combined with the beautiful cinematography and stunning scenery, creates a film that is ideal for an afternoon with friends or an entertaining option for a weeknight date.

With its stars' combined acting abilities and Chaumeil's comical take on the story, "A Long Way Down" is transformed into funny, likable farce. From the unlikely opening scenes to the hilarious vacation sequence, the movie offers up one delight after another. While it may not be a family-friendly film, it is certain to please audiences with its earnest performances and unexpected humor.