The Other Man

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Toronto International Film Festival

 

Seldom has such great star power been marshaled in the service of a sillier movie than "The Other Man." The A-list cast of Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Antonio Banderas, and Romola Garai founders in this undoubtedly very intricate short story by Bernhard Schlink ("The Reader") that has been pumped-up, to very ill effect, into a very implausible full-length movie adaptation.

The film starts out promisingly enough, with Harris Zambarloukos's cinematography creating an eerie, forbidding sense of atmospherics by emphasizing the cool metallic interiors of the characters' London world.

Soon enough, though, some very mistaken script decisions quickly take the film straight south. (These bizarre moments in the plot may in fact have come from the original short story, where they may have worked much better on paper than they do on screen.) Despite the superb cast, commercial prospects seem shaky and this one may indeed go straight to video.

The basic problem is that the filmmakers weren't able to decide whether they were making a film about a love triangle, about the sexual obsessiveness of a man who didn't realize how much he loved his wife until he lost her, or a standard-issue thriller replete with all the accoutrements of that genre. So they decided to do all three at the same time. But the end result confuses the viewer (on purpose) by relying on some really hilarious plot twists (not on purpose).

Laura Linney is Lisa, a celebrated shoe designer, who is married to Peter, a celebrated software designer. Their daughter is played by the increasingly lovely Romola Garai. One night at dinner, Lisa teasingly asks Peter if he's ever considered sleeping with another woman and he begins to suspect she's trying to tell him something. She disappears (or seems to) shortly thereafter and, after going through her secret computer files, Peter discovers evidence--from illicit emails to nude photos--of an adulterous affair with Latin lover Ralph (Banderas).

Obsessed, Peter takes off for Milan where Ralph lives, locates him, and then strings him along with games of chess in Ralph's favorite cafe. In a movie like this, of course, it seems completely normal for Ralph to spill every bit of the beans of his affair with Lisa to this stranger, only a few minutes after they've met. Peter's daughter also magically locates her father in Milan but even after screaming a very significant "let her go, Dad," fails to convince him to return to London and let Ralph alone.

Well, nothing is as it seems, and Lisa turns out not to have run away and Ralph turns out to be a janitor. Further revelations would spoil the plot, and "The Other Man" has very little else going for it to stay even vaguely interesting. The biggest problem is that the plot twists are so extreme, especially juxtaposed with some very stupid dialogue, that most viewers will be quickly led to several (unintentional) laugh-out-loud moments.

Near the end, even the spirit world is called in as reinforcements, but by then, the battle is long lost.

Production Companies: Rainmark Films Ltd.
Cast: Liam Neeson, Antonio Banderas, Laura Linney, Romola Garai
Director: Richard Eyre
Screenwriter: Richard Eyre and Charles Wood, based on a short story by Bernhard Schlink
Producers: Frank Doelger, Tracey Scoffield, Michael Dreyer
Director of photography: Harris Zambarloukos
Production designer: Gemma Jackson
Editor: Tariq Anwar
Sales: Ealing Studios International
No rating, 90 minutes

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