Okay, seriously now, that’s enough. I used to complain about the fact that every movie ever made about infidelity seemed to paint men who stray as completely nasty pieces of work while women who do the same thing are always desperately seeking happiness that has long left their current relationship/marriage. Now I am also reminded of the fact that every man in the world, even one with a seeming lack of any bad decisions in his personal history, will fall for a beautiful, young woman and act like a smitten schoolboy at the drop of a hat. I’m not denying that it happens now and again, but I am getting a bit annoyed at it being made the subject of movies that put so little effort into justifying the situation or making it remotely believable (see also Breathe In from this same festival selection).
In A Long Way From Home James Fox and Brenda Fricker play Joseph and Brenda, a loving, married couple living in France. Despite some health problems, the fact that Joseph is the only one fluent in French and that most days consist of the same routine repeated again and again, the two seem happy enough. Which is why it’s hard to understand why Joseph suddenly finds himself falling for a young woman (Suzanne, played by Natalie Dormer) when she and her boyfriend (Mark, played by Paul Nicholls) end up sitting at the next table in the restaurant that Joseph and Brenda attend almost every day. Joseph starts acting like a lovesick teenager, lying to his wife and doing whatever he can to spend some time with Suzanne. Unsurprisingly, this causes some silent tension as Brenda notices the change in her husband and easily puts everything together.
Natalie Dormer is a gorgeous young woman. I’m not saying that I find it hard to see why the character played by James Fox would find her attractive. I just find it hard to accept that he would change SO much, SO suddenly, after over 50 happy years with his wife. It’s nonsense, a movie conceit that gives little respect to the characters and, in turn, the actors playing them.
Writer-director Veronica Gilbert, adapting the material from her own short story, has to take the blame because the actors all do a pretty good job, especially Fricker in a performance that’s full of silent, expressive moments. Fox is his usual pleasant presence, despite having to embarrass himself somewhat, and Dormer is delightful. Paul Nicholls has, arguably, the most thankless role and he does okay with it.
To be (grudgingly) fair to Gilbert, she doesn’t actually go all the way to the extremes of cliche and predictability that she could have. The movie has a lot that’s been seen before, but it’s admirably one step removed from the outright awfulness that it could have been. There are good moments scattered throughout the movie and as viewers watch Joseph act a bit idiotic it’s a temporary insanity that has a sweetness to it, as opposed to him being painted as a malicious schemer and wretch.
So it never sinks as low as it could have. That’s really all I need to say. I’ve never used that phrase as a glowing recommendation before, and I’m not about to start now.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: VERONICA GILBERT
STARS: JAMES FOX, BRENDA FRICKER, NATALIE DORMER, PAUL NICHOLLS
RUNTIME: 85 MINS APPROX