Several Nick Hornby novels have made the perilous transition from the page to the big screen.
Colin Firth led the squad of Fever Pitch which was remade as The Perfect Catch with Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon, High Fidelity failed to top the charts with John Cusack, and Hugh Grant discovered his paternal instincts in the hugely successful About A Boy.
Next up for the big screen treatment is A Long Way Down, a novel about four seemingly disparate strangers, who form a bond when they meet on the roof of a notorious suicide spot – the fictional Toppers’ House in London – where they intend to take their lives.
There’s Maureen (Toni Collette), a sweet-natured mother who doesn’t feel like she’s doing a good job of looking after her severely disabled son, Matty; disgraced television presenter Martin Sharp (Pierce Brosnan) whose career and life have gone down the pan after he slept with a girl who, unbeknown to him, was underage; American musician JJ (Aaron Paul) whose life has lost direction since his band split up and his girlfriend dumped him; and Jess (Imogen Poots), a teenage livewire who has been spurned by her boyfriend and is haunted by the disappearance of her older sister.
Rather than kill themselves on New Year’s Eve when they first meet, the quartet makes a pact to live for another six weeks until Valentine’s Day.
Their plans are thwarted when newspapers get wind of the pact and make Jess, who is the daughter of an MP, and Martin front page news.
Jess decides to play the media at their own game, which results in the four acquaintances appearing on chat shows to discuss the pact and how they decided not to jump from the building when they saw an angel who looked like Matt Damon.
When it comes out that they didn’t see an angel who looked like the Hollywood heartthrob, the public and press turn on the foursome.
Fed up, Maureen, Martin, JJ and Jess slope off for a disastrous holiday together to escape the unwanted attention.
Despite strong performances from each of the main cast, A Long Way Down doesn’t hang together well.
The script and plot are largely true to Hornby’s book but the film feels higgledy-piggledy and there’s a noticeable rush to tie up loose ends in the final 15 minutes.
Unlike the book, the characters barely change over the course of the film.
Other than Maureen, you have little sense that these unhappy and unfulfilled people have moved on from how they were feeling at the start of their journeys of self-discovery.
Consequently, the ultra-neat ending seems to make trite of the issue of suicide.