Separate Lies Review

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Solicitor James Manning (Tom Wilkinson) thinks aristocrat Bill Bule (Rupert Everett) is a hit-and-run killer. James’ wife Anne (Emily Watson) confesses she is the guilty party in the accident, and is also having an affair with Bill. The emotional and le


Following sterling work as screenwriter on Gosford Park, former squeaky character actor Julian Fellowes makes his writer-director debut with an adaptation of A Way Through The Wood, a 1951 novel by Nigel Balchin (source author for classic British films Mine Own Executioner and The Small Back Room).

Despite occasional swearing, this is almost laughably stiff-upper-lip. Everyone tries to act reasonably, even during crockery-smashing rows. The plot-starting accident comes as a shock during the opening credits, but is the only action in the film. Instead, Fellowes homes in on the actors as they squirm inside a storyline which suggests English reclamation of the bourgeois death-and-adultery drama territory occupied by French helmer Claude Chabrol (who often adapts British novels).

The reason this film is more than a fossil is that the leads are outstanding. No-one does helplessness in pinstripes better than Wilkinson, while Everett is perfect as the callous, creepily fascinating ‘other man’. And Watson is a melodramatist’s dream as the 1951-style incipiently sexual housewife eaten up by guilt and desire.

Quality acting and writing and appropriately understated direction, but a touch too polite for its own good.