Director: Pascal Chaumeil
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, Aaron Paul
by Emer O’Toole
Nick Hornby’s bestselling novels – About a Boy, High Fidelity and Fever Pitch – have been successfully adapted into films, perhaps due to their simple narratives. However, his 2005 novel, A Long Way Down, fails to make a smooth transition to film.
A Long Way Down follows four strangers who intend to jump off ‘Toppers House’, an infamous London suicide spot, on New Year’s Eve. They find themselves talking to each other instead of jumping and make a pact to remain alive until Valentine’s Day, the next popular suicide day in the calendar.
Pierce Brosnan plays Martin, a disgraced breakfast TV host, briefly imprisoned after a liaison with a 15 year old (“she looked 25”). Toni Colette plays Maureen who is mistaken for a lonely cat lady but is actually single mother to a disabled son. They are joined on the roof by Jess (Imogen Poots), manic depressive daughter of an MP (Sam Neill) and JJ (Aaron Paul), a failed rock musician working as a pizza delivery guy.
This results in a suicide comedy which is disappointing from when the ‘Toppers Tower Four’ form a supportive ‘gang’ to when they jet off to Spain together to escape media intervention after they become minor celebrities.
There are humorous moments: when they appear on national news, “professional liar” Jess speaks of how they saw an angel resembling Matt Damon on the roof. Rosamund Pike shines as Penny, Martin’s former co-host who interrogates the group on their experience. It is these humorous moments that stop the film from taking itself too seriously, a concept Hornby was conscious of when penning the book: “If I wrote a book about depression that was incredibly depressing, why would anybody want to read it?”
This may have worked well on paper and, in theory, should have worked on screen, but Jack Thorne’s screenplay feels clumsy at points. Take, for instance, the multi-stranded narration which is presumably supposed to give us insight into each character. Instead, it is clunky and disjointed rather than moving seamlessly from character to character and we somehow feel slightly detached from the characters’ lives.
With an intriguing premise and a talented cast, the film should have been a success. As always, Toni Collette plays the single mother role well and it is interesting to see Pierce Brosnan in a more emotional role. Poots and Paul have exceptional chemistry but that was to be expected since this is their second film together following Need for Speed.
Ultimately, A Long Way Down is not as funny or moving as it should have been. In the same way Jess describes JJ, the film can be summed up as “cute but infinitely forgettable.”