Performances shine despite lackluster direction
A seemingly happy marriage of more than 20 years ends with an adulterous wife who disappears, leaving her loving husband to discover the identity of her lover and travel across the country to befriend the man in order to gain justice.
The plot itself sounds like either a gut-wrenching, anti-love story or a psychologically jarring thriller â both of which would be wildly entertaining for their respective audiences. Unfortunately, Richard Eyreâs The Other Man is unable to choose between the two and ends up falling short. Even the filmâs A-list cast is not enough to keep the filmâs writing from sinking.
The film opens with a scene of tranquil water slowly turning into a wake behind a speedboat, accompanied by the soft sounds of an overdramatic melody. As the water splashes against the boat, we see a female hand playing with the water. The camera pans up to the smiling face of Lisa (Laura Linney), who is laughing and talking with someone off-camera.
As the camera turns around, a man (Antonio Banderas) we later learn is named Ralph (pronounced âRaffâ), a self-described cosmopolitan, is smiling right back at her as he takes pictures and looks at her amorously. The love between these two is not unseen.
The next scene is a high-profile fashion show, in which Lisa is sitting next to a different man. Peter (Liam Neeson), her husband and owner of a computer company, sits obediently next to his wife in the front row of the runway, watching his wifeâs famous shoes strut across the floor on modelsâ feet. Sitting on the other side of Lisa is her daughter, Abigail (Romola Garai).
In proper how-to-write-a-screen-play style, the minute the fashion show ends Abigail and Peter show their very strained relationship, seeming to catch Lisa in the middle. As Abigail leaves to meet up with her live-in boyfriend, George, Lisa and Peter head to dinner and engage in an awkward conversation about having sex with only one person for the rest of their lives. Peter seems to think itâs possible, but Lisa gives him room for doubt.
âItâs a choice, not a promise,â Lisa says after Peter explains his vow not to be with another woman.
Suddenly, the scene switches and Peter is cleaning out a room in his home when his daughter bursts in and tries to stop him. He attempts to give her the blankets and clothes in his hands and says that he canât bear to have his wifeâs things there anymore, suggesting that Lisa has left.
This event leads to the father and daughter exchanging in a hostile conversation, giving more evidence of their strained relationship. When the exasperated Peter sits at his desk to think, he realizes Lisaâs stunning pair of red heels are sitting on a bookshelf and finds a piece of paper with the words âLake Comoâ on them. Thatâs when Abigail comes back in and explains that her mother told her to give them to him, but his look proves he does not understand the significance of Lake Como or the shoes.
It is not until he begins to look through her computer that he understands what Lake Como means. After some snooping through her computer, he comes across a folder entitled âLoveâ that is password protected. When he tries a folder named âLake Como,â out spills hundreds of photos of Lisa with another man; some are platonic and some intimate, leaving Peter perplexed.
After a little illegal investigation, he finds the name of this man in the photos and where he lives â Milan. He proceeds to fly to they city and befriend the man who had been secretly intimate with his wife in order to enact some sort of vengeance.
The rest of the film follows a shaky â at best â attempt at a thrilling and twisting plotline, but seems to not quite pass the test. The writing seems to leave gaping holes that does not lead the audience to a âwhodunitâ chase but more of a confused stupor. Not being able to understand the plot in the middle is only an effective strategy if there is gratification at the end, but Eyre seems to miss this idea.
The casting and cinematography were clearly the saving graces of this film; from the high-profile leading actors to the very striking resemblance that Garai has to Linney. The dark, creepy scenes around the time Lisa disappears leaves a little more to the imagination than the writing.
Some stories are meant for the form in which they are created, and it seems that Eyreâs interpretation of The Other Man â coming from a short story â might not have translated over the medium of film as well as they would have liked. After all, with a cast as famous as this, the actors must have seen some magic spark on paper that made them interested in the film; it just didnât come to life with the writing on the screen.