The Other Man (2008)
Film review by: Witney Seibold
Turgid, dull and dreary, Richard Eyre’s “The Other Man” is an infidelity thriller without any thrills, or, indeed without any moments of consequence. One would think that a film with Liam Neeson, Laura Linney and Antonio Banderas engaged in a steamy, border-hopping love triangle, that, well, something would happen. But no, this is a film that is largely about discussion, resentments, and an investigation with only one possible conclusion. There is no tension, and, despite the enthused performances from the cast, no real emotion coming off the screen. It lays there, grey and flat, unspooling dully to the end.
In a strange opening, Lisa (Linney) reveals to her Irish husband Peter (Neeson) that, were she to leave him, she wouldn’t do him the courtesy of breaking up with him first; she would merely vanish. Peter is a little baffled, but it’s not long before Lisa does indeed vanish out of his life, and he’s left to pick up the pieces, much to the chagrin of his put-upon daughter (Romola Garai). It’s also not long before Peter finds a few secret e-mails on his wife’s laptop, indicating that she was having an affair with a dapper Spaniard named Ralph (Banderas). Peter, in a delightfully sloppy investigative fashion, tracks down Ralph with the intention of killing him. Rather than just gunning him down on the street, though, Peter decides to find out more about Ralph, and ends up having some pleasant games of chess with him.
Note to filmmakers: chess is way too easy a metaphor.
There are a few twists along the way, and we do learn the true nature of Linney’s character, the circumstances of her disappearance, and what Ralph has really been up to. These revelations, though, when not feeling kind of cheap, fall under the idiom of uninteresting.
I hate to come down so hard on a film that was clearly made by talented and earnest professionals who were trying to tell a grown-up story about the nature of infidelity and the real way people think, but I just wish that the actors, who are capable of much more, and the film’s director (who had done the much more interesting “Notes on a Scandal” as well as a pile of theater), had opted to make a darker and more daring story from this setup. Not that I need all of my films to give me excitement and cheap action thrills. I just wished that the grown-up material had warranted some more magnetics.
And I’m not sure I have too much more to say about this film. I wish I did. I wish I could point to the high and low points with more aplomb. I wish I could mention how baby turtles played into the plot, or the subtle interplay between Neeson and Banderas. I wish I could go into detail about anything, but the film’s entire structure seems such a non-starter, and all the important plot revelations are such secrets, that my hands are tied. If this is enough to draw you to the film, by all means watch it. It’s at least made by talented and interesting people. If it scares you off, then you won’t be missing too much.
Have I done my critical duty?