Yesterday, I posted my review of Nick Hornby’s novel A Long Way Down. As it was the first book that I finished this year, it only felt right that I also watch the film adaptation for today’s post. The fact that it also stars Pierce Brosnan was just a wonderful benefit. Although, I’m always up for watching Bronhom is anything and there’s a brief scene of him dancing in this one. Yep, even after the first Mamma Mia! film he still thought it was perfectly acceptable for him to dance on screen. Say what you will about his acting but, boy, does he have a great of confidence for a man born without rhythm. I must say that I’m incredibly jealous. I’m also a terrible dancer despite all my best efforts. I wish I was able to give as few fucks does about what I look like on the dance floor and just went for it.
I’m not normally the kind of book person who worries to much about film adaptations. I understand that things will likely be different to how I imagined and plenty of good stuff will be cut for time. It’s the nature of films vs books. Writers have a luxury of length that film directors don’t have. They also have the ability to convey a character’s inner thoughts without having to rely on a cheesy voiceover. I’m also normally pretty intrigued to see how people interpret books that I like. To see where directors or actors decide to take the story or characters. One of my favourite examples is when Michael Gambon took over as Dumbledore. I know there was a major outcry in the fandom because he shouted a line that the book specified was asked “calmly”. However, I love Gambon’s decision to get angry. After all, Dumbledore is clearly a shady guy and has some very problemtatic characteristics. Gambon shows that darker side.
But I’m getting off track. I normally try to go into film adaptations with the intention of pretending that the book doesn’t exist. Or at least that they exist in different realms and are, as as result, completely separate entities. Of course, sometimes I fail but I’m only human. When it came to watching the adaptation of Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down, I was concerned. Not because I love the book (if you’ve read my review from yesterday you’ll know that already) but because I didn’t think it was a story that desperately needed to be turned into a film. There was definite potential in the story but I don’t think the story goes down a very exciting path. It just ends up being a bit of a jumble. So, I didn’t see how the film would come together.
The opening of the story is definitely the best part. It’s New Year’s Eve and former television presented Martin is standing on the roof of a building contemplating jumping. He is quickly interrupted by Maureen, a single mother, who has had the same idea. Once manic Jess and failed rocker JJ arrive, the moment really has passed. So, the four go their separate ways but find their lives turned upside down once the papers find out about their story. The foursome attempt to get something out of the situation but only make it worse, which pushes them into taking a holiday together. But can this ragtag group of misfits really become friends when the only thing connecting them is an attempted suicide?
I’ll admit that there are aspects of the film that improve upon the book. I’m not sure who persuaded Sam Neill to start in this but the relationship between Jess and her father is much better here. As for the rest of the story, it really oversimplifies the story and makes the ending even more of a fairy tale than Hornby did. It’s just not a great thing to watch and it really doesn’t do the mental health side of the narrative any justice. Yeah, the book didn’t do very well with it’s portrayal of depression but I can at least give that a pass for being written in the early 00s. This film was made in 2014 when the conversation about mental health was stronger. People were more aware of the complexities everyone faces. The adaptation just doesn’t seem to care. It’s even more disappointing than an already disappointing book.