Considering the standard of Nick Hornby film adaptations has been rather high (Colin Firth and Mark Strong appeared in the underrated Fever Pitch after all) the fact that director Pascal Chaumeil has assembled a strong cast for this latest attempt means A Long Way Down sets fairly high expectations from the start. Do they head up or does the titular decline set in though once the action starts?
When four suicidal loners meet on the same tower block roof on New Year’s Eve they somehow manage to convince each other to hold off until Valentine’s Day. Forming some kind of strange pact, the group become a surrogate family guiding each of the four through some difficult moments over the following six weeks.
Via some handy voice over we’re soon introduced to Pierce Brosnan’s disgraced newsreader Martin, Toni Collette’s mumsy Maureen, Imogen Poots’ quirky Jess and Aaron Paul’s frustrated JJ as each gets a segment of Chaumeil’s film with which to flesh out some character.
However the same problems that plagued Hornby’s source novel are also evident in Jack Thorne’s screenplay; namely that fusing a story about suicide with humour and romance is something that requires either tremendous skill or a near-knuckle dark tone. Though the novel may have managed the former at times A Long Way Down ditches the dark in favour of schmaltz too often meaning it soon becomes apparent there won’t be splattered bodies amidst the discarded roses and chocolate boxes on the streets of London come Valentine’s.
However that’s not to say there’s not plenty to enjoy with Aaron Paul’s rocker JJ and Imogen Poots’ politician’s daughter Jess the pick of the performances. And while there’s nothing quite as hammy as suggested by Brosnan’s Love Punch performance or Collette’s dour turn in laughable drama Hostages, the pair never engage in the way that perhaps their experience suggest they should in roles that feel underwritten and one-note.
So while A Long Way Down lacks both the wit of About A Boy and the insight and charm of High Fidelity it does at least manage to make London look like the sort of place that doesn’t necessarily bring you this close to the edge, even if the kind of syrupy community spirit on show here is something you’re more likely to see in Richard Curtis’ incarnation of the capital.
Not a long way down from other Hornby adaptations then but you feel it’s always going to be looking up at them.