Anne (Emily Watson – Punch Drunk Love, Breaking The Waves) and James (Tom Wilkinson – The Full Monty, Bedroom Window) Manning are an upper class couple who seem to have the perfect life and marriage. As time goes on you begin to see cracks in their 'perfect' little world. James is obsessed with morality and class and as a result he is controlling and paternalistic towards his wife. He is a high profile barrister and everything in his life, including his wife, comes second to his job. Anne begins to feel inadequate as a result and feels as if she lives in a prison of rules. Bill Bule (Rupert Everett – The Ideal Husband, My Best Friend's Wedding) arrives onto the scene and he is the complete opposite of James; he is a man who lives without rules and does not bow to convention. Due to a tragic event, their lives begin to spiral into one of disaster and doom. Murder and adultery become a big part of their lives.
In this very British suspense/drama, which has was adapted from a Nigel Balchin novel, Tom Wilkinson, Rupert Everett and Emily Watson have all been perfectly cast. The acting is the strong point of the film and without these talented actors the director, Julian Fellowes (first film), could not have made us believe what unfolds in the film. All the facial expressions, body language and interpretations of the characters are spot on. The film is ultimately about choices and these three make us never doubt for a second the choices their characters make. The skillful acting and direction always allow you to see and understand the others point of view. As a result, your loyalties are forever shifting in this film. You are never sure who you want to root for. Ultimately, the answer is all of them. The film is very British in that it focuses on class and is fairly slow paced, but also in the fact that despite everything that is going on the characters use humour to get through almost anything. The only criticism I have about this film is its ending, which I will not spoil, but suffice it to say left me a little frustrated. A perfect grown-up movie for those who like a bit of intrigue in their British films.