JDIFF Review – A Long Way Down

On New Year’s Eve, disgraced former TV presenter Martin (Pierce Brosnan) climbs to a spot in London, favoured by suicides with the intent of jumping from the roof and joining their number. As he contemplates his last few moments on earth, three strangers, all of whom had the same idea, join him on the roof. As the four flippantly reveal their reasons for ending their lives, a tenuous bond is formed between them.

Based on a Nick Hornby novel, A Long Way Down is the story of four people who decide not to kill themselves… Well, not for the time being anyway. The cast of characters includes Brosnan as Martin, Imogen Poots as Jess, Toni Colette as Maureen and Aaron Paul as JJ. Each character is given fully formed reasons for wanting to end their own lives – each of which is simple but relatable – and each actor is given the chance to develop their character, allowing the audience to empathise with them. Imogen Poots gives an engaging, unbalanced but believable character, Colette is always great, although she is given the least amount of room to grow, Brosnan embraces the opportunity to play a selfish dolt with little knowledge of the world outside fame, and Aaron Paul brings nuance to a character whose reasons may be less clear than others.

Instead of turning the story into one of counselling and shoulder-crying screenwriter Jack Thorne has drawn out the human aspect of the tale, reminding the audience that while these characters may be at the end of their tether, they are still open to the idea of hope. Yes, this is a rather twee and an easy solution for four people who were literally on the verge of throwing it all away, but this is a rather sweet tale of finding comfort in other people. Some of the comedic aspects work better than others, and the script is at it’s best when it is not trying that little bit too hard.

Director Pascal Chaumeil coaxed great performances from all of his actors, and it is on their warm interactions that the film rests. Decisions made may feel a little contrived at times, but there is a warm heart at the centre of the film. Issues sometimes feel a little too easily solved – or not solved at all – especially through some temporal jumping, but this is a sweet and warm little film that focuses on a subject that is often the focus of melodrama, rather than comedy.

A Long Way Down is a film about finding friends where you least expect them. There are some incredibly succinct and well observed lines of dialogue about the nature of pain and suicide that remind the audience that this is not just a comedy about wanting to fall but forgetting to jump. Poots and Paul shine and, although issues are often a little too easily resolved at times, leaving the film feeling convenient and a little contrived, this is a warm and engaging watch.

Rating: 3.5/5

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