If you’ve never read Nick Hornby’s book, A Long Way Down, I’d heartily recommend it. However most people who’ve read the novel will know it was always going to be tough to adapt it for the screen without making it seem trite or cheap. While not a complete disaster, unfortunately the movie version doesn’t completely overcome those issues.
On New Year’s Eve four strangers meet on a rooftop – disgraced broadcaster Martin (Pierce Brosnan), loud-mouthed politician’s daughter Jess (Imogen Poots), down-trodden mother Maureen (Toni Collette) and musician JJ (Aaron Paul). They’re all there to do the same thing – leap to their deaths.
However their unexpected meeting results in them making a pact – they will all agree not to kill themselves until at least Valentine’s Day, and they will keep in touch with each other in the meantime. Although initially none of them are sure about this agreement, they soon start to build unlikely bonds.
Hornby’s book manages to succeed due to the fact that while it takes on a tough subject – suicide – it’s narrated by each of the main characters, allowing you inside their heads so you know and understand what took each them to that roof (whether their reasons seem valid or not), and how their lives change over the following month and a half. However while the film attempts to follow this to a certain extent, such as giving each of the main characters a few minutes to talk to the audience in voiceover, largely it all seems a bit easy and convenient.
What was a brave and unusual book becomes a rather commonplace comedy. It does just about manage to handle the fact it’s based around people who want to kill themselves without seeming tasteless, and there are moments that are actually quite moving, but there’s also a sense that by trying to squeeze itself into typical comedy territory, it does the heart of the story a disservice.
To be fair though, the second half is actually pretty good, but without a fully effective set-up – partly due to the fact it slightly fudges just how desperate these people must be – it’s not everything it might have been.
Overall Verdict: A great book becomes an okay but somewhat underwhelming film. It may manage to avoid trying to make entertainment out of suicide, but it’s too standard and easy to really stand out.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac