A Long Way Down

 
(i)

 

Awkward dark comedy has heavy themes, language, drinking.
  • Review Date: July 10, 2014
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 96 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The obvious message is that life is definitely worth living, no matter how difficult, dire, or desperate your circumstances might seem. The movie explores how depression and personal tragedy are temporary and that, with encouragement and support, life can and will get better and more satisfying.

Positive role models

The four main characters help one another overcome their depression, get counseling, and choose life instead of suicide.

Violence

The movie's plot revolves around four strangers who all meet as they attempt (but fail) to commit suicide. Later a young woman is rushed to the hospital because of an overdose.

Sex

Partial nudity in a clinical way: A young woman shows her behind in a hospital gown. J.J. sleeps with a woman the same night he meets her while on vacation. Martin admits he had an affair with a 15-year-old he thought was 25, and he's referred to as a "perv," "pervert," and "pedo" (short for "pedophile"). Jess tells someone she had hoped to shag him.

Language

Frequent use of strong language (particularly by Jess), including "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," some British slang, and other expletives.

Consumerism

Almost everyone has an iPhone and a Macbook.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The "Topper's House Four" all drink quite a bit -- to the point of getting drunk -- while on holiday together in Spain. The next day, the foursome discusses having a hangover. They also drink more casually while out together on other occasions. Martin smokes cigars, and one character accidentally overdoses but survives, while her ex is clearly on party drugs.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that A Long Way Down is a dark comedy about four strangers who postpone their suicide attempts after meeting on the night they originally wanted to end their lives. Based on English author Nick Hornby's (About a Boy, High Fidelity) 2005 book, the movie deals with heavy themes (depression, loneliness, isolation) that are sometimes portrayed as humorous and other times as heartbreaking. One of the characters swears like a sailor ("f--king"), and there's a one-night stand, a naked behind (glimpsed when a character is in a hospital gown), a non-fatal drug overdose, and some serious drinking. But the message, of course, is that life, no matter how painful it might temporarily be, is still worth living.

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What's the story?

A LONG WAY DOWN is the adaptation of best-selling English author Nick Hornby's 2005 novel about four strangers who meet on the night they all plan to commit suicide by leaping off of the same fictional London building, Topper's House. Martin Sharp (Pierce Brosnan) had it all -- a top morning talk show, a beautiful wife, two young girls -- until an affair with an underage girl sent him to prison and ruined his life. He's ready to kill himself on New Year's Eve, but as he's deliberating whether to jump, he meets Maureen (Toni Collette), a single mother to a severely disabled young man who feels helpless about her life. But she can't jump, either, because onto the roof strides young, wise-cracking Jess (Imogen Poots) and finally American pizza delivery guy J.J. (Aaron Paul), who says he's got terminal cancer. The four strangers end up spending most of the night together, and since it's then January 1, they make a pact to not to attempt suicide again until Valentine's Day. The story quickly leaks to the tabloids, earns them a nickname (the "Topper's House Four"), and brings them together.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

For the most part, Hornby's books have  translated into funny and poignant films like About a Boy and High Fidelity. So perhaps it was inevitable for one of his novels to seriously falter on the big screen. The cast of A Long Way Down is surprisingly stellar, but the characters are still unbelievable and difficult to relate with, except possibly for Paul's wannabe rocker J.J., who's more generally depressed than suffering from a particular tragedy. As Maureen, Collette, like Paul, exudes a quiet, pervasive sadness that's in sharp contrast to Poots' manic, potty-mouthed Jess and Brosnan's narcissistic and shallow Martin.

The screenplay and the direction are so uneven that they make the movie seem more like episodes of a zany TV dramedy patched together than a seamless story about four lonely souls who are desperate for connection and hope. The book, one would hope, fills in the holes that the movie glosses over, but on the screen, even the four points of view and narration don't truly invest the audience in the characters' lives. There are occasional funny moments and a predictable romance, but overall the tone and the execution fall flat.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about dark comedies and why they're meant to be provocative. Is suicide a funny topic in general? How does the filmmaker make otherwise dark moments humorous?

  • How is the British press portrayed? Do you think it's believable how the media flocked to the story? Do you think that would happen in real life?

  • What should you do if you or someone you know starts expressing suicidal thoughts and desires?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 11, 2014
DVD release date:September 9, 2014
Cast:Toni Collette, Pierce Brosnan, Aaron Paul
Director:Pascal Chaumeil
Studio:Magnolia Pictures
Genre:Comedy
Topics:Book characters, Friendship
Run time:96 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byafharpers November 3, 2014
 

Too many F- words

I was excited to read this book after discovering it on a list of " Books to Definitely Read Before You Enjoy the Movie." The plot line sounded intriguing. However, on page 34 I had already had enough. Too many f-words. I am taking it back to the library today. I'm very disappointed.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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