I remember enjoying Nick Hornby‘s novel A Long Way Down quite a bit (though it’s not his best book by any stretch) back when I read it back in high school or college, I forget which. It’s nothing to go nuts over, but it’s enjoyable for sure. This film adaptation? Not so much. The tone here is just all over the place, the actors are given very little to do, and the filmmakers don’t seem to get the point of it all whatsoever. Scribe Jack Thorne doesn’t translate any of the charm of the novel Hornby wrote at all and director Pascal Chaumeil only muddies the waters more with his less than ideal handling of the material. Any movie starring the quartet of Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Aaron Paul, and Imogen Poots should have at least some semblance of a good time to be had, but this is staggeringly mediocre. Aside from a little bit of chemistry between the four of them at times (and not even always), there’s almost nothing to praise here. It’s mediocrity through and through folks. Up until now we’ve had real good luck with Hornby adaptations, but this is a real turning point. A Long Way Down fully deserves the thumbs down that it’s getting.
The concept is fairly decent, if rather morbid. Four depressed individuals meet on New Year’s Eve at the top of a tall building in England in order to commit suicide by jumping off of said building. There’s disgraced television personality Martin Sharp (Brosnan), depressed party girl Jess Crichton (Poots), sad and introverted single mother Maureen (Collette), as well as supposedly cancer stricken delivery boy J.J. (Paul). After a bit of a jumble, no one ends up jumping and a pact is made to stay alive and together until Valentine’s Day. Before long, their story gets picked up by the media, giving them a bit of celebrity, including a spot on Martin’s old show with his former cohost Penny (Rosamund Pike). They don’t really handle their issues or deal with their problems though, leading to the inevitable situation where they end up back on the roof. You can see how this could have become an interesting character study about damaged individuals finding a reason to live due to one another, but that’s not what we get here. Well, the movie things that it’s telling that story, but it really doesn’t bother to actually go about and do it. It just floats by, never really having a purpose.
I can’t completely blame the cast here, though they aren’t quite doing themselves any favors either. Pierce Brosnan was a solid choice for the role of Martin (it read like a Hugh Grant type character in the book, so this close enough), but his issues are so glossed over and his interest in money becomes so strong a plot point, you sort of lose sight of his whole situation. Brosnan does what he can with his charm, but the character gets lost in translation. Toni Collette is absolutely wasted in a role that should get your sympathy but merely gets your indifference. The same can be said for Aaron Paul, though Paul’s character at least moves the plot along more than Collette’s does. The strongest of the four is Imogen Poots I think, but she’s also the most annoying as well. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not, but regardless, her character grates on your. Rosamund Pike essentially cameos, with the same being said for Sam Neill as the politician father of Jess. Other supporting players include Josef Altin, Leo Bill, Joe Cole, and Tuppence Middleton, but they leave no impression whatsoever.
In the director’s chair, Pascal Chaumeil brings nothing to the table. I’m not sure how much of that has to do with how much Jack Thorne bungled the screenplay, but neither Chaumeil nor Thorne help their cause out. It’s as if they read a completely different book and decided to just have uninteresting characters do very little for around two hours. It’s so pointless and frustrating. There’s a long vacation in the middle of the movie…why? It grinds an already stuck in neutral film to an even more noticeably screeching halt. They do hit on a slightly cute ending, but it’s way too little, too late by then. It also sort of wraps things up in way too neat a package, so there’s that as well. Sigh. I can see why someone like Emile Hirsch dropped out of this one.
Overall, A Long Way Down is a waste of a talented cast and a potentially strong story. It’s mishandled through and through, leading to a film that’s mediocre at best and a startling misfire at worst. There’s really no reason that I can think of to waste your money on this flick. I wanted to like it, trust me I did, but that wasn’t in the cards for me. A Long Way Down is a long ways off from being a good movie, plain and simple…
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!