With the global pandemic making such a prolonged impact on our lives, it was merely a question of when to see its presence on our screens.
TV companies in the UK were certainly quick off the mark, with ITV and their shorts Isolation Stories in May of last year, featuring cast members filming in their own homes, and the excellent BBC comedy Staged featuring Michael Sheen and David Tennant playing versions of themselves attempting to work from home over video conferencing.
This feature, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Anne Hathaway, may well be the first of its kind to hit what would have been the big screen, but it certainly won’t be the last.
On the London road of Portland Street live Linda (Hathaway) and Paxton (Ejiofor). They are a couple, like so many, that have found lock down slowly chip away at their relationship until it finally got the better of them both. But with the tight restrictions of locke down in place, they find that they still have to cohabit under the same roof, making for a tense scenario.
Both are unhappy with their lives, and not just with the situation between them. Although Paxton is clearly intelligent, an event in his past means that he’s only been able to work as a courier driver for a number of years, and it’s taking its toll. Linda may well be in a lucrative position for a fashion company, but when she’s forced to fire a number of her staff, she starts to re-evaluate her life.
As fate would have it, an opportunity is presented to them both, whereby they could make a cool 3 million, changing their lives – together or apart – forever.
With Doug Liman directing a Steven Knight script, there’s no denying this film has a quality pedigree. But although not a complete failure, it feels that there was a better film desperately struggling to get out.
Knight’s script certainly has its moments, with some amusing dialogue that helps build the genuinely natural relationship that comes from Ejiofor and Hathaway on screen, but the story they serve ends up being just too contrived and convoluted.
Perhaps Knight should have kept it simple, and told the relatable tale of a couple’s relationship being yet another victim of Covid-19. And for the first half, that’s exactly what you get. But then the story leaves the realm of reality and plumbs awkwardly into the depths of a heist flick. It’s like Ocean’s Two SW1. Not only is it unbelievable it’s wholly unconvincing, feeling crowbarred in by unprofessionals, which is clearly not the case.
For instance, a thread that has the possibility to cause them concern is that Paxton is given a new identity that he can’t change, the name of Edgar Allan Poe. Knight makes the same mistake here that the governor of Kentucky recently made, when he stated that no one could have the same name as deceased rapper Tupac Shakur in his state, which it turns out they did. There’s absolutely no reason why Paxton couldn’t have the same name as the renowned American writer, and that it would be simply be accepted rather than a point of concern, as it is used here.
There are just one too many coincidences that the film leans on too. Paxton gets a driving job where he has to pick up some expensive items from Harrods in London. Linda just so happens to be the person who called to have said items picked up and couriered to the airport. Oh and she just happens to have worked in Harrods for a number of years, so not only knows the staff, but is completely aware of the layout of the building. With these kinds of extraordinary odds they really should be entering the lottery.
Perhaps Knight had time constraints in a bid to be one of the first COVID stories to reach audiences, as there’s every chance that the film would have benefitted greatly with him spending more time on the patchy script.
It’s not all doom and gloom however, as the film is saved by terrific performances from its two leads. Hathaway and Ejiofor complement one another beautifully, finding a rhythm of the couple seamlessly, making it possibly the only believable element of the film.
It would have been a touching snapshot of a couple in lock down if it wasn’t for the ill-served heist element tacked on that doesn’t do the film any favours whatsoever.
Unlike the real lock down, this effort is unlikely to live long in the memory.