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Separate Lies

Genre: Drama
Rated: R
Directed by
: JULIAN FELLOWES
Starring:
TOM WILKINSON, EMILY WATSON, RUPERT EVERETT, LINDA BASSETT, HERMIONE NORRIS, DAVID HAREWOOD
Released by: Fox Searchlight Pictures

In Short: Julian Fellowes' adaptation of Nigel Balchin's novel A Way Through the Wood is a moving and surprisingly funny drama about a married couple whose lives are forever changed after one of them reveals a terrible secret.

Sex, Lies and Cricket Matches
Four Separate Lives, One Big Lie
By Veronica Marian

From the startling opening scene until the very end of the film, "Separate Lies" is a pure delight. The movie is a touching and surprisingly funny drama written and directed by Julian Fellowes, whose previous writing credits include "Gosford Park" (for which he won the Academy Award) and "Vanity Fair," and whose acting career has spanned over three decades. Fellowes makes his directorial debut with this moving film, exploring the complex nuances of secrecy, betrayal and above all, forgiveness.

Tom Wilkinson's versatility as an actor is once more confirmed, although his performances in "Normal," "In the Bedroom," "Batman Begins" and "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" had already proven the wide range of his talent. In "Separate Lies," Wilkinson plays James Manning, a successful London solicitor who we first come to know as a self-involved, patronizing husband to the much younger, more vivacious Anne, portrayed flawlessly by the doe-eyed Emily Watson. The couple's marriage, although not unloving, seems mainly restricted to a long-established routine of approval-seeking, with James continually making Anne feel like a clumsy child. When the rakish aristocrat William Bule (Rupert Everett) joins the idyllic country community where the couple often weekend, James and Anne's relationship is tested, as are the couple's morals after Anne reveals a terrible secret.

Fellowes’ writing is entirely his own, having borrowed the story's plot from Balchin's novel but not the dialogue. It is delicately understated and at times refreshingly funny. In fact, Everett's character is the only aspect of this film that felt uncomfortable, his performance being so constrained and over-the-top unlikable that even when we are tempted to have a change of heart, we can't fully allow ourselves to care much for him. Meanwhile, the film's greatest success lies in making the morally ambiguous James, Anne and Maggie (Linda Bassett), the couple's cleaning lady and the victim caught in the middle of the ensuing lies, all entirely sympathetic.

Several scenes in the film—particularly when James finds Anne's scarf and when they meet again almost two years later—are bound to move those who have ever realized their own shortcomings in a relationship or whose love was not enough to make someone stay.



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