The novel ‘A Long Way Down’ is not-quite-vintage Nick Hornby. And this is a disappointing film version, a bit hokey and fake. The big problem is the book’s played-for-laughs concept: four suicidal Londoners planning to top themselves on New Year’s Eve choose the same skyscraper to jump off. Pierce Brosnan out-mockneys Jamie Oliver as a disgraced daytime telly presenter fresh out of prison after a sex scandal. Imogen Poots is terrific as a sarky, brattish politician’s daughter (‘it’s exciting to have a celebrity in our suicide midst’). Aaron Paul (Jesse from ‘Breaking Bad’) is a failed rocker working as a pizza delivery guy. And, in a weird bit of casting, Toni Collette (hilarious in ‘The United States of Tara’) drabs it up as a Home Counties single mum. It’s not a spoiler to say that no one takes the plunge. There are funny moments: when the story ends up on national news, attention-seeking Poots tells a reporter how they saw an angel resembling Matt Damon on the roof. Rosamund Pike is hilarious as a bitchy TV host. But it’s hard to care about these characters. None of them is believable for a second. And the film lacks that slip-into-a-Slanket cosy feel you want from Hornby.
Cast and crew
Potential to be great, but badly cast
I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of Long Way Down followed by a Q&A with the screenplay and novel writers of the book.
Four people who have all decided to commit suicide on the same night- New Year’s- meet at the top of their chosen building and form a friendship. The movie is about their story and how they each came to be there, wanting to end their life. They make a pact to keep living until Valentine’s Day.
I had high hopes for this movie- the plot sounds interesting and I imagined it to be something like the slightly quirky, yet touching Garden State. Unfortunately the movie lacked depth and conviction for me.
Listening to Nick Hornby and Jack Thorne talk afterwards was very interesting- hearing how a movie came to be always adds a certain understanding which wouldn’t have been there otherwise, unfortunately it still didn’t help me buy into the movie itself. The script could have been better, and there are some pointless sub-plots (the journalist on their holiday- why?!), however the main problem I found is that, bar one, the roles are badly cast.
The one which did work is Toni Collette who plays the long-suffering Maureen. She gave the most convincing performance- brilliant in fact, and it was her story alone I was interested in. After the movie it was revealed that she’d had a lot of input into the writing of her character, and it shows. She plays it with sensitivity and conviction.
Aaron Paul as JJ was like watching Jessie in Breaking Bad thrown into another strange situation.
Pierce Brosnan as disgraced former celebrity Martin is unremarkable. His story is a bit underdeveloped too.
The movie would have been at least slightly better if it wasn’t for Imogen Poots who plays damaged and rebellious Jess. I found her so, so annoying. She takes over every scene she is in- and not in a good way. Like a student fresh out of drama school who’s landed their first role, she’s far too loud and ‘actressy’.
I was restless during the movie mainly because I just wasn’t drawn-in. Would I recommend it? No. Would I watch it again? Probably not. It’s a shame because the execution of the story let it down.