Separate Lies (2005)

Director: Julian Fellowes

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 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 a completely distinct entity to 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 such as “too polite”, “uneventful”, “too English” and “bourgeois” and all of those criticisms have some validity. The film meanders along uneventfully for the most part and despite quite a touching ending one is left thinking “So what?” It does hold the interest though and the quality of the acting glues it all 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

Rating: 7/10

Availability: DVD.