Screenplay: Julian Fellowes
Studio: Celador Films/DNA Films
Cast: Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Rupert Everett, etc.
Running time: 84 minutes
Background: The Oscar-winning scriptwriter of Gosford Park, Julian Fellowes, having been beaten to the film rights of Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair by Neil Jordan, used Balchin’s 1951 novel A Way Through the Wood as the template for what Clive James described as “a stunning directorial debut”.
Verdict: Firstly, let me say that I find it difficult to appraise this film having read the book on which it is based so many times. Fellowes transported the story from the early 1950s to the present day and it just about survives the transition intact. However, the necessary updating process means that the film is best considered as an entity completely distinct from the book, as they are wildly different. Fellowes effectively gutted the novel, leaving out most of the (admittedly sprawling) middle section and concentrating his attention on its beginning and end. The acting is superb throughout, the direction assured and the film is very nice to look at. But now we come to its drawbacks! The reviews of Separate Lies were peppered with comments suggesting that the movie was “too polite” and “too English” and both criticisms have some validity. The film meanders along uneventfully for the most part and despite quite a touching ending when it has run its course one is left thinking “So what?” (in this regard I liked the comment of the BBC’s Mark Kermode, who characterized Separate Lies as “A hmmm movie”). Fellowes’s film does however hold the viewer’s interest and the quality of the acting glues the whole thing together.
Praise for Separate Lies:
“Clever and entertaining” — The Guardian
“A continually surprising film” — Philip French, The Observer
“An insightful, wonderfully acted study of marital conflict” — Christopher Tookey, Daily Mail