Review: The Other Man (2008)

The Other Man (2008)

Directed by: Richard Eyre | 90 minutes | drama | Actors: Laura Linney, Liam Neeson, Antonio Banderas, Romola Garai, Abigail Canton, Amanda Drew, Laurence Richardson, Kas Graham

Fine predecessors are no guarantee of fine successors. Richard Eyre’s literary film ‘The Other Man’ is a psychological thriller cum drama, just like his previous film ‘Notes on a Scandal’. Moreover, ‘The Other Man’ is an adaptation of a novella by Bernard Schlink, who, as the author of ‘The Reader’, has already seen a work successfully made into a film.

While ‘The Other Man’ and ‘The Reader’ are qualitatively miles apart, the stories are related in content. Both are about a painful reconstruction after the discovery of a shocking secret. In ‘The Reader’, a man must revisit a past love story after learning that his lover was once a guard at a concentration camp. In ‘The Other Man’, a man discovers that his missing wife has always led a double life. To reconstruct the hidden side of his marriage, he travels to Milan, where his rival lives and works.

Had the makers opted for a psychological drama, ‘The Other Man’ would have been good. Now they opt for a (too) complex construction. The first hour ‘The Other Man’ is a psychological thriller, which in this case boils down to the unexciting confrontation between an English chagrin and a Mediterranean slime ball. The thriller is also poorly developed. Countless genre clichés – rummaging through someone else’s email, following prey through the busy streets of a city, a game of chess as a symbolic showdown – huge plot holes, unbelievable decisions, stiff dialogues and stiff acting.

After an hour, the film suddenly changes color, with the result that form and subject directly touch each other: just like the main character, the viewer is forced to reconstruct. Although the negatives do not disappear, the film gains in depth and emotion and the role of daughter Abigail also becomes clearer. Unfortunately it is already too late by then.

‘The Other Man’ could have been a good film if the screenwriters had paid a little more attention to coherence, logic and detail and less to the concept. Now you leave ‘The Other Man’ with mixed feelings. The movie isn’t bad, but it could have been so much better. If you know ‘Notes on a Scandal’ and ‘The Reader’, you also have high expectations. The problem of fine predecessors.

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