Nick Hornby’s novel about a group who meet on a rooftop, each individually planning to commit suicide on the same night only to form an unlikely friendship, A Long Way Down has come to be a pretty divisive work in his cannon. Surely the book has its fans (Johnny Depp is reportedly one of them), but it certainly isn’t one of the author’s most critically-acclaimed efforts. So perhaps it’s fitting that the movie adaptation follows in these footsteps of critical dismissal.
But is the movie really deserving of all its verbal maligning? Well… yes and no.
There are definite flaws in the workings of A Long Way Down. Often things just seem to happen a bit too quickly, too over-the-top, and without much reason or build-up. Consider the scene where J.J. reveals that he is not really terminally ill to the rest of his unlikely support group. This quickly escalates to a down-and-out brawl with the other members in the middle of the restaurant with food being thrown as fists fly. Not only that, but this effectively terminates the group’s friendship for the obligatory mid-film conflict.
Now we all know that people don’t like to be lied to, but surely that wasn’t really a situation that called for a reaction of that degree.
Apart from that, the film just feels a bit too familiar and a bit too much like a by-the-numbers tale of an unexpected friendship. And that’s really kind of a pity.
It would be hard to say that even the novel of A Long Way Down was some kind of grandiose masterpiece, but the sort of Breakfast Club-esque tale of four strangers that meet and help each other through the next few months with a few offbeat laughs along the way certainly does have potential for a nice, quirky little story.
And indeed there are moments of that sort of charming comedy that play out in the film with moments of dry humor juxtaposed with an often somber undertone. Not to mention that most of our main characters are quite likeable with Pierce Brosnan giving a great performance as an archetypical Hornby-esque flawed-yet-loveable persona.
But even with these aspects working in the film’s favor, the overall sameness of the plot keeps it from being entirely worthwhile.
It may deserve a bit more credit than it has received, but A Long Way Down is not much more than a collection of good ideas strewn into an otherwise unremarkable patchwork of scenes.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5