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A Long Way Down (2014)

Magnolia Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/9/2014

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/9/2014

There are plenty of movies out there which tackle "tough" subjects and we seem to see more and more of them lately (especially when awards season roles around). Racism, substance abuse, LGBT issues, and terminal illness are just some of the subjects which crop up in movies which often long to explore the human condition while also pulling back the curtain on an important topic. One thing which we don't see addressed very often is suicide. This is just as serious as the other storylines discussed here, but the problem may be that suicide often leaves behind more questions than answers. A Long Way Down takes the idea of killing one's self and puts a new spin on it.

As A Long Way Down opens, it's New Year's Eve and disgraced television host Martin (Pierce Brosnan) has made his way to the roof of building in order to commit suicide. He soon finds himself joined by Maureen (Toni Collette), a single mother; Jess (Imogen Poots), a party girl; and JJ (Aaron Paul), a pizza delivery guy, all of whom are also there to kill themselves. The four decide to abandon their plans and leave the building, although an incident lands Jess in the hospital later that night. Following this, the four make a pact to stay alive at least until Valentine's Day. These four strangers soon begin to grow closer, and as they do, their personal layers are stripped away, and the truth of why each of them was on that building is slowly revealed.

A Long Way Down is based on a novel by Nick Hornby, whose books have been the inspiration for such quality films as High Fidelity and About a Boy. I haven't read the novel, but having scanned some reviews for it upon its initial release, I knew of the general premise. And that premise is an admittedly intriguing one. Typically, if we have a story in which more than one person is committing suicide, we're looking at some sort of cult in action. Also, we've seen other stories in which depressed people bond, but this takes that idea to the extreme. As note before, suicide doesn't make it to the front of the movie story line that often, so not only is A Long Way Down unique in that sense, but it also shows originality in the way that is able to explore why these four people would want to kill themselves. This gives the movie a chance to explore how suicide can be something which is impulsive or well thought out.

Unfortunately, there is something missing from A Long Way Down. Writer Jack Thorne has broken down Hornby's novel in way that allows it to tell the overall story while also examining each of the four characters individually. But, Director Pascal Chaumeil, who is (as far as I can tell) making his English-language debut here, fails to get much emotion out of the story. The movie deals with four very sad and confused people, but only Maureen's story manages to elicit any sort of caring. Martin, Jess, and JJ aren't repulsive to the audience, it's simply harder to get into their stories. (I can see how Jess' story could really turn some people off, not to mention that the crux of it is left unexplored.) In the journey to discover exactly why each member of this quartet would want to kill themselves, Chameil dwells on some things, while blowing past others, resulting in a story which feels disjointed.

Movies culled from Hornby's books are usually pretty reliable (save for 2005's Fever Pitch remake), but A Long Way Down is a disappointment. While this certainly isn't a bad movie, it doesn't live up to the typical standards of Hornby's work and the movie squanders its original idea. The actors are all fine (and it's odd to see Paul and Poots together again, having just seen them in Need for Speed) and they try hard to make things as realistic as possible. However, the movie never rises above a movie-of-the-week level of emotion and you'll walk away realizing that you really don't care about what just happened. It's not enough to make one want to harm themselves, but there's no doubt that A Long Way Down is a let-down.

A Long Way Down offers some amazing acting by Maureen's son on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is impressive and some shots show very nice depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are well-done, and they are really noticeable during the rooftop scenes, as the wind whips by. The scenes offer some nice surround sound effects as well. The music in a nightclub scene delivers thumping subwoofer action. Otherwise, this is a fairly average drama audio track.

The A Long Way Down Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. "Making of A Long Way Down: Jumping in With Cast & Crew" (8 minutes) opens with comments from author Nick Hornby, who describes his inspiration for the story. We then hear from the Director and Screenwriter, as well as the main actors, who discuss the characters and the themes of film. The Disc contains seven DELETED SCENES which run about 8 minutes. This includes extra moments from scenes from the finished film, as well as something which plays like an alternate ending. We do get to meet Martin's wife in one of the scenes. There is a seven-minute reel of OUTTAKES. "On Toppers Tower: A Behind the Scenes (sic) View" (2 minutes) shows how visual effects were used to create the opening sequence. "Working with the Director" (2 minutes) has the actors describe their working relationship with Pascal Chaumeil. "Adapting the Story" (3 minutes) is a somewhat rambling piece which doesn't talk enough about how the movie and book are similar or alike. "AXS TV: A Look at A Long Way Down" (2 minutes) is a brief set of clips which include a few comments from the cast. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long