Wednesday, 4 March 2009


Rarely do I see a film without one sympathetic or likeable character but Closer is that film. Directed by Mike Nichols and based on the play of the same name, the plot follows the complex and deceitful relationships of its four central characters. They fall in and out of ‘love’ with each other over the months and with each dalliance gradually strip each other to the bone emotionally. By the end one is left thoroughly depressed by the viciousness and selfishness on display and struggling to identify any redeeming qualities.

Dan (Jude Law) is an author who makes his living writing obituaries for a newspaper and his profession is fitting for a man who kills off his relationships with a pathological consistency. He falls in love at first sight of Alice (Natalie Portman), a young American waitress and stripper, having seen her across the road just before she is knocked down by a taxi. Alice is possibly the most endearing of the four but even she is revealed to have maintained a deception throughout her time with Dan. Anna (Julia Roberts) is a photographer who meets Dan at a photo shoot and he then sets her up to meet Larry (Clive Owen) in an act of spite. Anna and Larry end up married and over the next few months the couples embark on a series of affairs with each other.

One of the most striking aspects of the film is the lack of any depth in the relationships. There is a lot of talk about sex and how people feel about each other but it all seems very superficial, self indulgent and is in the end self destructive. The actors show a range of emotional responses to the discoveries of betrayal and rejection; there is anger and plenty of tears, however, one is left wondering whether it is little more than self pity. This is particularly true of Dan who at one point sobs about losing Anna and almost in an instant switches his affections back to Alice.

There is one scene that sums up the film. Alice and Dan are in an airport hotel about to fly to the U.S. and Dan insists that Alice tell him whether she slept with Larry. Alice snaps and tells Dan that they are finished. Realising what he is losing, Dan apologises and tells Alice he loves her. Alice challenges Dan to give one tangible example of how he loves her; he says the words but can he show her how he has loved her? The answer is no. Throughout the film the four talk about love, lust after each other, sleep with each other and yet there is not one instance where one of them acts selflessly for the sake of another.

Is this love in C21st?


Sam Norton said...

Exactly so. I wrote this a few years ago, which chimes in!

Philip Ritchie said...

Thanks Sam,
I hadn't seen your review and I agree that the film was well made and acted, something I left out of my comments. Interesting to note that Clive Owen played the part of Dan in the stage play. Kate and I were discussing the film last night and of the four characters I think Larry (Owen's character) is the most repugnant and yet the most honest - I really rate Owen as an actor.