Sliding Doors (1998) starring Gwyneth Paltrow, John Hannah, John Lynch, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Zara Turner, Douglas McFerran, Virginia McKenna directed by Peter Howitt Movie Review

Sliding Doors (1998)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah in Sliding Doors

The Double Life of Gwyneth Paltrow

What if one day when you left for work you turned right instead of left, you may have a different journey but in the end do you arrive at the same place? That idea is pretty much what "Sliding Doors" starring Gwyneth Paltrow is all about, looking at how a small almost obscure event can change the path of your life but then questions whether it changes things in the long term. As such "Sliding Doors" is remarkably clever, well worked, beautifully edited and being a romantic comedy has equal measures of fun and love to make it both thought provoking and entertaining.

The day starts out just like any other for PR agent Helen Quilley (Gwyneth Paltrow - Malice) except when she gets to work she finds herself being sacked. On the way back home as she rushes to catch the train we get to see two versions of her life one where she gets the train and one where she misses it. As things progress we watch how the two different versions of Helen's life pan out one with a cheating a boyfriend and one with a new man in her life.

Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah in Sliding Doors

One of the first things to strike you about "Sliding Doors" is not the cleverness of the story, the humour or romantic moments but that it is beautifully put together. With the double life element on show the way scenes crossover with Helen exiting from one narrative arc suddenly to appear as the other narrative arc takes over is truly magnificent. It makes these two separate lives/stories flow almost seamlessly and stops the whole thing jarring. As such it does get a little confusing as you try to keep track on the separate storylines and the seamlessness of it all makes it harder. But in a way it's a compliment to say it makes it confusing because it keeps you on your toes.

Which brings me nicely to the storyline which is rather clever bringing up that thought provoking element of "What if?". But rather than going down the "It's a Wonderful Life" route it delivers a simultaneous comparison triggered by a meaningless moment. So as such we get to watch two stories one with Helen discovering her boyfriend's infidelities and one where she doesn't. The cleverness of it is that whilst running in tandem there are elements which occur in both lives insinuating that if certain things are going to happen then they will no matter what route your life takes. It's all nicely done and as already mentioned with the easy flowing editing makes it a movie which requires you to concentrate on as even when Helen gets her hair cut in one life it's still at times a little confusing.

Aside from all this cleverness the actual storylines have that romantic comedy touch with one leading on a happy romantic path whilst the other drifting off towards the not so happy. Which whilst a little sugary in places with John Hannah turning up as an unbelievably nice guy in one of the storylines it does basically work to deliver that fun, feel good factor even when at times it most certainly doesn't feel like it should.

Adding to all that is good about "Sliding Doors" are 3 of the 4 main performances with Gwyneth Paltrow shining with her double performance as Helen. Combined with the clever screenplay it's a wonderful performance as her character grows two ways with one ending up insecure as she doubts her boyfriends fidelity whilst the other having broken free has become stronger with a new romance, but still Paltrow shares characteristics with both Helen's to make them still the same. Alongside Paltrow is the pleasant John Hannah who comes across as almost perfect, although despite a charming performance the character of James borders on the too unbelievably nice. Plus adding to the positives is John Lynch who adds a good streak of comedy as Helen's inept, cheating boyfriend Gerry.

But whilst all of their performances are good there is one which just doesn't fit and that is Jeanne Tripplehorn who plays Gerry's other woman the vixen like Lydia. It's not so much that the character is wrong because it is as believable as the others; it's just that Tripplehorn over does things being too seductive for a romantic comedy and failing to deliver the humour in her lines.

What this all boils down to is that "Sliding Doors" is a surprisingly clever movie, one which is much more than just a twee rom-com. It throws up ideas about fate, destiny and the journey are lives take in such a way it gives you something to think about. But at the same time it has a pleasant romantic comedy side making it just as good as a piece of almost innocent entertainment.