Another Life (2001)
In Need of More Life
On the 9th January 1923 Edith Jessie Thompson was hung for the murder of her husband Percy, a murder which her lover Frederick Edward Francis Bywaters confessed to. Those names meant nothing to me when I sat down to watch "Another Life" and if it wasn't for the fact that I spotted that it was based on a true story as I browsed a review I wouldn't have had any idea. I'm glad I spotted that review because "Another Life" was struggling to grab my attention but the minute I scanned through the true story over on wikipedia it had me intrigued. Unfortunately whilst knowing something about the true story helps "Another Life" doesn't do it justice with an odd tone and a story which is out of balance.
As a teenager Edith (Natasha Little - Greenfingers) was a fanciful young woman, full of romantic notions and seemingly blinkered to the fact that her boyfriend Percy Thompson (Nick Moran - Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) is quite reserved. Despite this and his blatant cowardice when it came to service during WWI they marry and settle down to life in Ilford, an unexciting life. But then Freddy Bywaters (Ioan Gruffudd - 102 Dalmatians), who Edith had known many years earlier as a friend of her little brother enters their life as an exciting 18 year old sailor and immediately fascinates Edith. It's not long before they embark on an affair, a passionate, sexual affair which Percy learns about but refuses to divorce Edith despite both hers and Freddy's pleas. Increasingly frustrated by the situation things come to ahead on the 3rd October 1922 when returning from the theatre Percy is murdered by Freddy.
Now as you can probably gather I initially struggled with "Another Life" as the intro is all very staged as we watch Edith and her sister having a pillow fight and then a very boisterous Christmas day celebration. It feels incredibly false and staged and that is something which for most of the first half kept me distant as there was not any naturalness to it. It is why I sort of drifted away to discover in that review it was based on a true story and quickly read up on the true case.
Now that certainly helped because what I read gave me hope for a more exciting and dramatic second half and in fairness when Freddy enters the scene it does momentarily spike as we watch him flirt with Edith as she succumbs to his passion. But it is momentary as what we then get is a drawn out romance of them having secret liaisons, arguments between them and Percy and then more secret liaisons. There is more to the story than this as they initially joke about murdering Percy which builds to an actual idea which Freddy desperately holds on to. But it does almost feel like it is going around in circles attempting to tantalise the audience with various erotic scenes.
Now there are a couple of things which really disappoint me about "Another Life" and one which is unfortunately due to the law. By that I mean that the Home Office files were marked not to be opened for 100 years which means when it comes to the actual court case it is dealt with in less than 10 minutes. It is dealt with in a powerful way in fact it is the most powerful and commanding the movie gets but I would have loved to see the actual court side of things expanded upon a lot more and hope that when the files are released someone will make a more detailed version.
And my other problem is the performances, not from Ioan Gruffudd who is brilliant as Freddy, charming, comical and basically full of passion. My problem is that Natasha Little as Edith and Nick Moran as Percy both play characters who are wrongly comical. When Edith tries to spice up their love making her playfulness seems to extreme whilst Percy's stiffness and looks of aghast border on being comedy. They are not the only ones as there are a lot of characters in "Another Life" who drift too close to being comical. Now this wouldn't be a bad thing if the tone was black comedy but it isn't and so makes for a rather odd feeling drama.
What this all boils down to is that the true story behind "Another Life" is truly a fascinating one especially when it comes the guilty judgement against Edith. But unfortunately the movie whilst doing a good job of detailing the affair struggles to fully connect with the audience and due to the restriction on the files can't do justice to the ins and outs of the court case.
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