Monday, September 8, 2008

TIFF 2008: The Other Man

The Other Man (U.K., 2008) directed by Richard Eyre (90 minutes) Ryerson Theatre

How could this film go so wrong with such strong actors and an accomplished director? It features Liam Neeson (the husband), Antonio Banderas (the "Other Man") and Laura Linney (the adulterous wife) ... This was so mediocre, so maudlin and silly. The premise: Peter (Liam Neeson) finds e-mails and photos that prove his wife Lisa (Linney) was having an affair with an individual named Ralph Cortez (Banderas) some time ago.

They are clearly in love, rendezvousing in beautiful exotic places and snapping endless photos of themselves alone and together.

Peter promptly flies into a rage, behaving erratically, threatening to purchase a gun and seek out "the other man" rattling his daughter Abigail (Romola Garai) whom I remember fondly from the far better film Vanity Fair from a few years ago.

He traces Cortez to Milano where his wife often traveled as an upscale shoe designer. In Milano, he hunts down Cortez and initiates a conversation in the cafe where Ralph plays chess daily and slowly learns of Cortez's obsession with Lisa (Ralph has still not figured out that Peter is her husband). Cortez, who only met Lisa in expensive hotels and leads a secret life, nurses a fantasy that she will return to him.

Using Lisa's e-mail Peter lures Ralph to Lake Como in Lombardy, Italy. Peter even offers to pay the way to the rendezvous and to subsidize a dinner that Ralph wants to hold to commemorate their future reunion in London.

At Lake Como, which has an unearthly beauty I was unaware of, Peter reveals the truth to Ralph. But all is not as it seems and Peter has some shocking news about Lisa's lack of contact with Ralph. Neither man is what he appears to be.

In the end the two men are reluctantly reconciled but there wasn't a single scene where I believed either one of them except for the sequence of lovely photographs that Peter comes upon which show Lisa and Ralph together and seemingly, obviously, in love.

Richard Eyre was on hand to answer questions ... he seemed a lovely, literate man and I was genuinely sorry I didn't like it more.

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