The threat of narrative vertigo aside, it took a second viewing before I could warm to Patrick Marber’s adaptation of his own mid-’90s stageplay. Initially, it’s impossible to overcome just how cold these characters are – four slick young adults caught in a destructive cycle of stop-start, inter-connecting relationships. Furthermore, Marber piles on the alienation by showing us only the beginning and the end of these aborted pairings. It’s a trick that strengthens Marber’s assertion that love can be nasty, brutish and short, but leaves us with too many questions begging about his characters’ personalities and relationships, like ‘Who the hell are they?’
That aside, Owen and Portman give excellent, committed performances, leaving Law and Roberts in the shade. The writing is uneven (and feels dated at points), but two scenes of break-ups, in particular, are superbly penned and performed, not least when Owen bitterly quizzes Roberts as to the details of her extra-marital affair, spitting out the million-dollar question, ‘Did you come?’
At its worst, its hollow plot feels like the dreadful recent TV series, ‘NY-LON’. At its best, its script bears an alluring cruelty that is all too credible.