A Long Way Down (Pascal Chaumeil, 2014)
A reverse suicide pact may sound ripe for comedy gold to some, but no doubt a bit of a risk. Based on the novel by Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down starts with disgraced celebrity Martin Sharp (Pierce Brosnan) about to jump off the roof of the Toppers Building on New Year’s Eve. That is, until Maureen (Toni Collette) shows up with the same idea, followed by Jess (Imogen Poots) and then JJ (Aaron Paul). Their plans thwarted and the feeling of loneliness somewhat lessened, the four of them decide to make a pact to hold on at least until Valentine’s Day (reportedly the second most popular date for suicides after New Year’s).
I’m assuming the book was better (aren’t they always?). The film didn’t quite know what it wanted to be. Random humour that often wasn’t particularly funny was inserted here and there, in the midst of a rather dark plot. Rather than acting as a light reprieve it instead felt forced and wrong. I laughed a few times, but I think I was meant to laugh more. There were likewise a few mildly touching moments, but they didn’t pack much of an emotional punch.
A Long Way Down boasts a star-studded cast in Brosnan, Collette, Paul, Sam Neill and an all-too-brief scene with Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike, but they didn’t have much to work with. The dialogue felt very clunky, the plot developments were often dull, and the ending wrapped up a little too nicely. While it seemed that there was most likely some depth behind these characters, and some significant mental health issues, these were never really fleshed out. I don’t think the word ‘depression’ was even mentioned.
Though Imogen Poots is the lesser known name of the bunch, she was the highlight for me. Jess is a very over the top, precocious character, who almost seemed exaggerated except for the fact that I know such characters exist. A pain in the arse, but with bucket loads of charisma. Toni Collette’s story arc was the most moving but like with all the others, time dedicated to her back story was fleeting.
Mental health can be funny if done in the right way, but A Long Way Down almost completely glossed over the fact that these characters did indeed have mental health problems. The idea that all that’s needed to rid these demons is a frolic in the sea with some strangers is borderline offensive. I believe in happy endings, but this film was lazy in its journey up to that point. There are most likely better offerings at the British Film Festival than this one. Don’t waste your money.
A Long Way Down is currently screening at the British Film Festival