Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Other Man (2008)

Director: Richard Eyre                                  Writers: Richard Eyre & Charles Wood
Film Score: Stephen Warbeck                       Cinematography: Haris Zambarloukos
Starring: Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Antonio Banderas and Romola Garai

This is an odd little film that, at least on paper, shouldn’t work. Liam Neeson in interviews even said that he didn’t feel right for the role, but in the end he makes it his own and he does a nice job. Antonio Banderas, likewise, just seems wrong playing the smooth European gigolo. And I still don’t think he works particularly well, but it doesn’t bring down the film too much. Laura Linney, on the other hand, is one of my favorite actresses of all time and does a tremendous job here. The blurb on the DVD cover from the New York Daily News says “Linney—luminescent as always—is a beguiling center of this triangle.” Adapted from a German short story by Richard Eyre, The Other Man contains a lot of suspense, drama, and no small amount of emotion by all of the principals, and put all together it works. It’s not brilliant, but it does work.

The film opens with a London fashion show at which designer Laura Linney has provided the shoes. Along with her are husband Liam Neeson and daughter Romola Garai. Neeson does a nice job of being out of his element among the clothing designers and models backstage. And later that night Linney questions him about their relationship, about wanting other people and what that would mean for them. Neeson thinks it strange, but isn’t nearly as suspicious about it as he should be. When Linney leaves on a business trip there’s an awkward transition when Neeson is seen attempting to give away his wife’s clothes to their daughter. She has apparently left him. When he sees a new email on her computer, he checks it and discovers it’s from the man she’s having an affair with. Neeson uses his employees at the computer company he owns to find out who he is, and goes to Italy to confront him. But before he does, a chance meeting allows him to meet the man first and his curiosity gets the better of him.

Richard Eyre has been primarily a director of television shows, and had directed both Linney and Neeson in a production of The Crucible on Broadway a few years before. He also wrote the script for this film, along with screenwriting veteran Charles Wood. It’s a strange story, though, and there is a certain surreal quality to the whole production. In fact many people dislike the film, especially the ending and what appears to be not only an unsatisfactory resolution, but a confusing one as well. The thing is, it’s an intricately plotted story and has to be because of the nature of what’s happening, and while there are a lot of things that don’t appear to make sense initially the only real challenge for the viewer is with the motivations of the characters. On the surface they make choices that don’t seem logical, but they are choices, and if you can allow them that it can be an entertaining film. The Other Man is not an ordinary suspense film, but it’s definitely worth a look, for the two leads and the unpredictability of it all.

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