A Long Way Down is the latest Nick Hornby novel to be adapted into a feature film, starring Pierce Brosnan, Imogen Poots, Toni Collette and Aaron Paul. Dealing with difficult subject matter, the story revolves around suicide – a concept the film takes for granted, failing to strike the right balance between comedy and drama where it needed to most, making it an uncomfortable watch, and more often than not for the wrong reasons.
Martin Sharp (Pierce Brosnan) is a disgraced TV presenter who has lost it all. Humiliated, he wants to end it all by throwing himself off the top of a tall building on New Year’s Eve in London. Whilst preparing to jump, three other people, Jess (Imogen Poots), Maureen (Toni Collette), and J.J. (Aaron Paul), arrive at the scene aiming to do similar. All with their own back stories, the four form a pack to help one another and agree not to kill themselves before Valentine’s Day, but unsurprisingly, this comes with other difficulties along the way, as well as, of course, several life-affirming moments.
It is not that A Long Way Down is rotten to the core, as others would have you believe. Charged with being insensitive and down-right disrespectful to an issue that deserves our full care and consideration, director Pascal Chaumeil’s adaptation of Hornby’s book seemed destined for film hell. Although at times the attempted humour certainly does fall down on the side of being somewhat cheap, crass and careless, there are certainly moments of true emotion that are both dignified and sensitive, making this comedy/drama an unbalanced, but certainly not awful, spectacle.
Poots’ character, Jess, is insufferable. Wisecracks about pedophilia and terminal illnesses are horribly witless, yet despite it being difficult not to despise her, when Jess’ past is examined it is hard not to feel at least a slight bit of sympathy for this troubled young woman. Martin Sharp meanwhile is just plain unlikable. Arrogant to the core, sympathy is most hard to come by for this bitter middle aged man, whilst J.J. is the character we least get to know. Toni Collette’s Maureen, however, despite her timid nature, is the real stand out from the pack. Her story is both meaningful and sobering, and you can not help feel for this hapless woman as she struggles on whilst dealing with her ill son.
A Long Way Down is an uncomfortable blend of ill-timed humour and raw emotions that are fused together by some pretty solid performances. As irritating as certain elements of the film may be, and there are plenty of them, certain scenes are depicted with enough tenderness and care that it is difficult to not at least care a little teensy bit for some of the characters – as hard as you might try not too.