THE OTHER MAN: Starring Laura Linney, Liam Neeson, Romola Garai and Antonio Banderas. Directed by Richard Eyre. Rated MA 15+ (Strong sexual references), 103 mins.
Reviewed by Fr Peter Malone MSC
SOME years ago, Orange phones began a series of very amusing advertisements for cinemas warning people to turn off their mobile phones.
There was an Orange Committee for listening to pitches for films by well-known stars – and the head, Mr Dresden, always ruined them with a suggestion to insert a mobile phone into the script.
The first was with Carrie Fisher who had proposed a romance where the couple communicated by letters. Mr Dresden suggested phone communication.
Mr Dresden must have been around for this screenplay where a secret cache of communications is not found, as in the good old days, letters hidden away and tied with ribbon, but by ransacking a hard-drive for emails and photos and trying to work out the computer password – not as romantic as in the past!
The Other Man is a film with a fine pedigree: from a short story by Bernhard Schlink (The Reader), written by Charles Wood (How I Won the War, Iris), with the director Richard Eyre (Iris, Notes on a Scandal), with a top cast.
However, the film was little seen and, if you see it (not without interest), you understand why.
What can work well on a page, given the time we take to read it and absorb it, may move far too quickly on screen where the film keeps moving on without time for a pause.
At times, this film is far too literary in the sense just explained, and, given the realistic setting and treatment of the plot, it seems far too contrived and stylised. Some scenes may have worked much better on stage (which is where Richard Eyre is from).
The other difficulty is the structure of the film. The audience is left deliberately confused until the end about what has happened, especially in terms of chronology – and an important (key) element is not revealed until very late. This makes some logical sense of what has transpired but is a bit of a twist shock that makes for irritation that we did not know this information before.
The plot is rather simple in itself, after the event. A wife asks whether a couple can stay married forever. She disappears. The husband discovers she had a lover and tracks him down and finally confronts him.
The wife is played by Laura Linney, the husband by Liam Neeson. (They worked together in Love, Actually and Kinsey.) Romola Garai is their daughter.
The “other man” of the title is Antonio Banderas – and it is he who has most of the difficult lines (speeches) to deliver. He does his best, but the situation is contrived by the husband and the declarations are rather stagily elaborate.
Of course, this may work well for some audiences but most may resist the urge to be drawn into it.
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.