Based on Nick Hornby‘s dark comedy novel and directed by Pascal Chaumeil, A Long Way Down follows a disillusioned quartet of strangers – disgraced TV presenter Martin (Pierce Brosnan), stroppy teen Jess (Imogen Poots), wannabe rockstar J.J. (Aaron Paul) and isolated single mother Maureen (Toni Collette) – who unintentionally meet on New Year’s Eve, each with the intention to end their lives. When the four mutually agree to call off their plans for six weeks, agreeing to wait it out until Valentine’s Day, the unconventional, surrogate family become a media sensation, as the Topper House Four search together for a reason to keep on living.
The film works in a similar way to the novel by the character’s sharing the voice-over to allow each of them to share their story. It may not be an overly believable one, but the characters on their own are; Martin isn’t particularly interesting but has obviously messed up his life, J.J. is lost without any real explanation, pixie Jess is a manic-depressive in need of answers as well as a bit of attention, and Maureen is feeling completely helpless. The female characters have a yearning for something more in life, while the male characters are looking for something to finally go their way; in small doses, there are many things that the audience can relate to with this bunch of misfits, and it’s no wonder they find themselves helping each other along the way.
Of course, the characters are so well-developed because of Hornby’s original source, but the four leads work perfectly together in this adaptation. I was a little unsure of Pierce Brosnan’s inclusion beforehand but he surprisingly works quite well in his role, albeit the least impacting of the quartet; Aaron Paul gives an excellent performance for one of his first leading roles since working on the sublime TV series Breaking Bad; Imogen Poots steals the show with her exceptional effort, proving that there’s a lot more to be seen from her; and the ever-excellent Toni Collette brings the group together with quality acting and a stronger emotional level just as her motherly character does in the story.
Parts of the story may feel like a Richard Curtis rom-com, but that’s because of the bitter-sweet yet quirky humour that is a little in your face. But most of all, A Long Way Down is full of heart and, above all, it is unavoidably a feel-good film.