Thursday, January 12, 2012


(Many of my online friends were posting about the season premiere of DOWNTON ABBEY with an online fervor usually only seen on Super Bowl Sunday. I haven't had the pleasure of ever seeing the series, though I hope to rectify that one day, since I've enjoyed other work by DA creator Julian Fellowes in the past. Many saw GOSFORD PARK, but few, I suspect, took in his film SEPARATE LIES, about which I wrote the following clumsy but heartfelt appraisal over six years ago.)

Beautifully realized domestic drama/whodunit by Julian Fellowes (writer of GOSFORD PARK). Quiet and intimate, with Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson delivering powerhouse performances as completely ordinary people. A pair of performances with absolute clarity and honesty - we totally understand why these people can't stay married, and why, despite some flagrant infidelity, they can't hate one another, either. Wilkinson and Watson lay their souls bare with a minimum of histrionics.

The film could never have been made in America. Not without our heroes shouting at each other or sweaty love scenes between our heroes and their flings. We just don't appreciate acting that isn't showy.

Anyway, Fellowes is great with details and dialogue - if there was a director born to give us a perfect film adaptation of a Pinter play, it is Fellowes.

2012 afterword: My good friend Aaron Luk, when talking about this film post-screening, gently observed "There are no small problems." Which neatly encapsulates the gentleness and the urgency of this film in addition to so much else beyond cinema. I'm pleased that the film elicited such a strong, sage response, an aphorism that has continued to reverberate over the ensuing years. This, among other things, is what the movies are for.

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