Shortly after I returned from a semester in London, my flatmate Katie sent me a copy of Nick Hornby’s book A Long Way Down. It was a story about the Topper House Four, four people from different walks of life who decided on suicide by throwing themselves off the most famous (fictional) building for suicide in London on the night most famous for suicide–New Year’s Eve. None of them expected there would be anyone else on the roof that night, and they wound up talking each other down. With a pact to stay alive until Valentine’s Day, the four mismatched suicidals form a strange but sweet family.
The film, which came out earlier this year, is a surprisingly accurate adaptation. It isn’t going to blow you away, but in its simplicity lies its success. It pretty much sticks to the story and the characters, and it even makes the unlikable characters likable, as the book does. You wouldn’t want to hang out with pedophile media broadcaster Martin Sharpe (Pierce Brosnan) or angsty potty-mouth youth Jess (Imogen Poots), but that’s the point. They don’t make sense together and some of them aren’t even great people, but when their weaknesses are exposed, you understand and sympathize with them. Hornby’s book also switches between four different narrators, flaunting his writing talent, so the film, too, takes pains to focus on one character at a time. In addition to Brosnan and Poots, the cast is rounded out with fantastic performances by Toni Collette as the suffering mother Maureen and Aaron Paul as the failed American musician turned pizza delivery boy JJ.