Lowdown: Four not entirely suicidal people find comfort in one another.
There was a time when I considered fellow Arsenal supporter Nick Hornby to be my favourite author. A lot of sewage was pumped into the sea since, with Hornby losing his status and morphing into an author I consider flawed but still enjoyable. He seems an author who builds his books around raising interesting social questions while ultimately failing to provide adequate answers. Perhaps I’m too naïve to think there can be a solution to every question, but I do admit to preferring the books that aspire for more.
One such ultimately disappointing book from Hornby came in the shape of A Long Way Down, now turned from an easily digestible book into an easily digestible film. The premises are ingeniously simple: while most of us regard New Year’s Eve as a time of peak happiness, it is also – and for obvious reasons – a time of peak sadness to the many amongst us who have a hard time feeling happy. That explains why suicides peak on such dates, at least according to Hornby; I haven’t researched the matter myself. It makes sense, though.
Thus on the eve of peak suicide we meet our four core protagonists at the roof of London’s most popular building for jumping off to one’s death from, a building that – for elusive reasons – is not particularly well guarded given its dubious popularity. We have ourselves Martin (Pierce Brosnan), a slick ex TV host whose career was ruined when he was caught making out with a too young to be legal girl; Maureen (Toni Collette), the single mother of a very disabled child whose maintenance consumes her entire existence; Jess (Imogen Poots), the teenage daughter of a famous politician (Sam Neill) whose older sister disappeared several years ago and left the family shattered; and the young American JJ (Aaron Paul), an aspiring musician who doesn’t like the pizza delivery boy he ended up as.
Through the discovery that they are not alone, that there are more people like themselves around, our Fantastic Four not only cancel their suicidal aspirations for the night, they make a pact not do embark upon them till at least Valentine’s Day (apparently, the next most popular suicide date). What follows in the rest of the film is the story of how these four turn into a made up family of self support. Between various rifts and tendencies, we get some nice comedy made better by the great acting talent at hand.
A Long Way Down really is made great by its superbly cast actors. Brosnan, probably at the pilot seat, is obviously superb as the slick & sly guy you wouldn’t buy a toothbrush from but who can turn up as a goodie when you least expect. Collette established her entire career on playing the miserable woman. Aaron Paul proved his worth in Breaking Bad, and despite the slipup that was Need for Speed he reassuringly returns in fine form here. Paul’s partner from Need for Speed, Poots, confirms why I easily mistake her for Emily Blunt: because she’s pretty good. Even the minor roles, such as Neill’s or Rosamund Pike’s, are brilliantly executed to a level that renders the whole so much better.
Ultimately, A Long Way Down is a lite story about people’s basic need in life: the need for friendship, the need to be acknowledged by the people in our lives. It does a fine job even if it fails to provide the ultimate recipe for the prevention of suicides or depression.
Overall: It was the actors that made me enjoy A Long Way Down way more than its 3.5 out of 5 crabs’ rating would suggest.