Well, I suppose it's cool to see that Liam Neeson and Laura Linney back together again, but as if the sexology wasn't awkward enough, this time around, there is some adultery going on that Alfred Kinsey isn't recording to put into a book. Well, actually, maybe Kinsey's and his wife's relationship was, in fact, more awkward and unusual than the little love triangle going on in this film, and it doesn't help that this film was sharp enough to avoid the awkward mistake of making Neeson the paramour, as Neeson shall not settle with being the titular "other" man. Sure, some would argue that it's a little more discomforting to be the poor sucker whose wife is having an affair, but hey, if a charmingly cool dude is to face a formidable opponent, then it may as well be Antonio Banderas. It's Aslan against Puss in Boots in the ultimately computer-generated cat fight for the hand of Laura Linney, and I put it like that to try and make this film sound more exciting than it is, even on paper. Man, if you look a little too far into this project, you'll find that it was pretty much doomed to be a little dull, especially when you get to the director's name, because Sir Richard Charles Hastings Eyre is Brit-tastically dry enough to simply say. Right quick, speaking of dry, somewhat, tragic romances, I can't help but look at Richard Eyre's name and think of "Jane Eyre", and I can think of some people who would say that this film's Eyre realizes this and keeps faithful enough to Jane Austen/Charlotte Brontė classics to be, well, boring. I for one would say that this film isn't entirely cleansed of good old-fashioned sleazy intrigue, and yet, while this film is certainly better than they say, it's not without its problems.
This is a relatively ordinary tale of relatively ordinary people facing situations of adultery, so the film feels that it hardly needs to bother with extensive character development, and on the whole, it makes the right decision, yet perhaps the film is too undercooked for its own good, as the characters have problematic traits that all but make problematic characters, due to limitations in the fleshing out of the leads who drive this drama. This character study stand to study on its characters more, which is kind of ironic, considering that we all recognize the characters, for although this film has a few refreshing elements, at least as far as style is concerned, it's a run-of-the-mill dramatic thriller of its type, offering familiar characters and scenarios. I was at least fearing that the film would be really generic, and it's not that, but neither is it anything new that you've seen, ultimately being a been-there-done-that affair regarding an affair whose familiarity almost blands things up, as surely as atmosphere problems decidedly bland things up. Even in the opener above I joked about fearing that this film was going to be boring, and really, the biggest surprise out of this film is dullness' not simply being lacking, but often challenged by a fair degree of entertainment value, so don't go in expecting this film to drag its feet too much, but don't exactly expect it to consistent thrill either, as there are still dry spells in Richard Eyre's directorial atmosphere, and when they jarringly break up moments of driving momentum with meditativeness, pacing inconsistency comes into plays and further distances resonance, until you end up with a rather distant film. Rotten Tomatoes' consensus calls the film "tension-free", and while I strongly disagree with that statement, there is still some coldness to this serving, which doesn't exactly have enough meat for thorough compellingness to survive questionable storytelling, because when I said that this is a relatively ordinary tale of relatively ordinary people facing situations of a adultery, I meant that it pretty much is just that, complete with a reasonable hint of intrigue, but an almost bland minimalism that goes reflected by the aforementioned storytelling shortcomings, as well as an ambition to make this film more effective than it could be. Don't get me wrong, I respect Richard Eyre for putting his heart into this, but he doesn't really get a whole lot in return, nor do we, because while this film is better than they say, it still leaves much to be desired, being too minimalist, underdeveloped, formulaic and talky to be all that memorable. Nonetheless, while this isn't, in more than one way, an affair to remember, while it has your attention, it keeps you going, or at least kept me going, largely because its artistic value is actually too sharp to deny.
Score composer Stephen Warbeck works sporadically, but whenever he gets work, he makes it count, and while his efforts for this film are kind of unevenly used, due to the dryly quiet moments, they're well worth waiting for, being a touch formulaic, but nevertheless with a tender intensity whose minimalist strike is not simply beautiful in a very atmospheric way, but complimentary to the heart of this tasteful dramatic thriller, whose musical artistry is perhaps topped in its value by visual artistry. If anything stands out in this film, believe it or not, it's Haris Zambarloukos' cinematography, which has a near-gothically tasteful attention to sparse lighting, as well as a hauntingly oily color palette that sometimes resembles a painting, often stuns and is consistently beautiful to a one degree or another, capturing your attention time and often, and having a tendency to capture the griminess of this almost sleazy dramatic art thriller. The film looks gorgeous, and the score isn't too shabby either, so on a stylistic level, this film excels in a truly underappreciated way that does a fair bit in getting the film by, because it does a fair bit in selling substance that needs inspired selling, partly because of the dramatic thinness, and largely because of the dramatic potential. I don't know how far this film could have gone if its storytelling was more realized, as there are limitations to this drama's familiar subject matter, but through all of the natural shortcomings, there is an intrigue that stands as conceptually worthy, and is sometimes successfully brought to life by Richard Eyre's direction, which is flawed, but has highlights in atmospheric reinforcement that keeps dullness at bay more often than not, and has a tendency to establish genuine tension, maybe even a mild hint of resonance, particularly when it comes to a genuinely surprising and heavy, if somewhat forced dramatic twist. The film is rarely all that compelling, but really, I found it to be more effective than many say it is, because when it works, you get a pretty endearing glimpse into what could have been to break up a consistency in a fair degree of engagement value, partly anchored by what Eyre does well in his ambitious directorial performance, and partly anchored by consistent inspiration within the acting. The film has a relatively small cast, but it's a strong one that, in spite of some underwriting, delivers, with Antonio Banderas being convincing as a man who wants more than just flings from another man's woman, while the fairly pretty Romola Garai proves to be convincing in her portrayal of a daughter suffering as she struggles to deny the harsh reality that her family is falling apart under the weight of unfaithfulness, as surely as leading man Liam Neeson truly steals the show with a subtly powerful portrayal of a betrayed and furious man who faces the crumbling of a marriage and a desire to exact vengeance against the man who has ruined his life. Neeson carries this film, and while he doesn't exactly carry the final product far enough for it to truly reward, his performance is just one of a fair deal of strengths that get the film by as a generally engaging, if somewhat forgettable dramatic thriller.
When the affair is done, the underdevelopment of characters who stand among the conventional elements which can be found throughout the film, as well as pacing issues reflect natural shortcomings within a story concept, which are great enough to drive the final product into underwhelmingness, in spite of an ambition that is still paid off enough through outstanding musical and visual artistry, highlights in direction and across-the-board strong performances - the strongest of which being by Liam Neeson - for Richard Eyre's "The Other Man" to stand as a reasonably entertaining and often engaging drama, in spite of its missteps.
2.5/5 - Fair