Who'd have thought the bloke who played Joey in Bread could have penned a knockout romantic comedy script that dares to stray from the formula? Peter Howitt says the idea came to him when he was almost run over by a car, and from this life-or-death incident he progressed to the fledgling film treatment which was to be his feature-length directorial debut.
Yet, just like Helen's life, Sliding Doors is a film of "What ifs?" What if it had a Hollywood budget, a more experienced director and a bigger-name cast? Would it have been more successful? Would more people want to see it? This is a movie that desperately wants to be liked and deserves to be seen.
It benefits from a clever premise that's well executed, and Paltrow and Hannah are impeccable. But the whiney Tripplehorn (as the ex who still likes to romp with Helen's boyfriend) and the limpet-like Lynch drag the story down. They're so unlikable that they're not even watchable, whereas supporting players such as Helen's confidante Anna (Zara Turner) and Jerry's friend Russell (Douglas McFerran, who steals scenes just by laughing), are worthy of being fleshed out.
At times the direction is cloying (the extreme close-ups make the actors look uncomfortable), the London locations seem staged and extensive use of Berterolli's restaurant (in Charlotte Street, location fans) comes across like a mini-advertising campaign.
Yet despite its many faults, Sliding Doors lingers in the mind long after the closing credits, and, at the very least it makes Howitt's writing future look impressively bright.
A superbly witty romantic comedy which dares to be different. It falls far wide of brilliance, but does manage to remain engaging, mainly thanks to Howitt's superb script and winning performances from Paltrow and Hannah.