Separate Lies

"Good"

Separate Lies Review


A film that would be perfectly at home on the BBC or PBS, Julian Fellowes' Separate Lies is a solid if somewhat stolid tale of romance, betrayal, and deception that's something akin to Gosford Park (which Fellowes' scripted) by way of In the Bedroom. Adapted from Nigel Balchin's novel A Way Through the Wood, Fellowes' directorial debut is much like its upper-crust married protagonists James (Tom Wilkinson) and Anne Manning (Emily Watson) in that its competent and classy exterior masks a messy, banal interior as it charts the couple's slow disintegration. With made-for-TV blandness, the film chronicles adultery, murder, and deceit involving callous young stallion William Bule (Rupert Everett) and the Mannings' loyal maid Maggie (Linda Bassett). That isn't to say that this well-acted, tasteful film is a waste; rather, it's simply a somewhat stuffy British production whose boilerplate melodrama leaves little room for a revelatory examination of selfishness, sneakiness, self-preservation, and sacrifice.

James and Anne's wealth affords them life's finest luxury accoutrements (residences in both London and the country, fancy cars, servants), but restlessness simmers underneath this apparently cheery, perfect veneer, with Anne soon catapulting their domestic bliss into chaos when she begins a torrid affair with William. When a mysterious Range Rover runs down Maggie's husband, Anne and William come under suspicion for the murder from both the police and James, the latter of whom endeavors to protect his wife (and, equally as important, his own reputation as a big-time barrister) by helping to cover up her possible role in the crime. Fellowes wastes little time on mystery, however, as his prime preoccupation is the method by which relationships crumble due to tragedies both big (the hit-and-run death) and, just as vitally, small (James and Anne's lack of warmth, inability to communicate, and joint desire to sweep unhappiness under the Persian rug lest it disrupt their comfortable existence). And with Anne unwilling to cast aside her youngish paramour to return to her husband, the film quickly becomes a case study in people's inability to fully suppress their most urgent desires and discontent.

The ensuing amorous treachery and devotion plays out like a romance novel as conceived by Masterpiece Theatre, with Fellowes' plain-Jane visual schema incapable of enlivening his story's stultifying ordinariness in the way that Robert Altman's fluid, roaming direction gave Gosford Park's upstairs-downstairs shenanigans both wit and grace. Separate Lies sits up on the screen inertly, failing to convey the pulse-pounding desperation and misery that's trying to break through the surface of James and Anne's pleasant facades. Yet even if the action frequently progresses with lethargic limpness, Wilkinson and Watson color the film with a full-bodied hue that Fellowes, for all of his dignified establishing shots and predictably edited arguments, is unable to muster. And though Wilkinson sporadically succumbs to the affected rigidity that sometimes mars his work, Watson uses quiet restraint to beautifully convey Anne's pent-up melancholy, whether in a quarrel during which her destruction of a carefully arranged vegetable plate speaks to the disruption of her life's order and stability, or in a later shot in which she mechanically applies make-up at her dressing room mirror, a vain attempt to put a happy face on a hopeless, lost marriage.

Don't forget to wear sunscreen.



Separate Lies

Facts and Figures

Run time: 85 mins

In Theaters: Friday 18th November 2005

Box Office USA: $0.8M

Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Production compaines: DNA Films, UK Film Council, Celador Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Fresh: 63 Rotten: 25

IMDB: 6.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as James Manning, as Anne Manning, as Bill Bule, as Priscilla, as Lord Rawston

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Chips Movie Review

Chips Movie Review

It's clear from the very start that this movie has little to do with the...

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Advertisement
Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.