Set in two universes; four lost souls are all looking for something, meaning in their life? Jonathan Preest (Ryan Phillippe) is a masked vigilante living in Meanwhile city a strange gothic fairytale looking city in seemingly perpetual night. Meanwhile City is run by “The ministry” using Religious dogma to control people. As the only atheist in the city Preest is a wanted man. After failing in his mission to kill a man and save a young girl he is arrested and incarcerated for four years. Then suddenly he is released and sent to kill his original target “The Individual”. A man we are told is responsible for the death of the young girl.
Meanwhile in London, Milo (Sam Riley) is coming to terms with his fiancé jilting him shortly before their wedding, until he meats up with his childhood sweetheart who is not all she seems. Peter Esser (Bernard Hill) is looking for his son. A young man who we discover is traumatised by his time in Iraq and the death of his sister. Emilia (Eva Green, in another great role, why doesn’t she make more films?) is a young art student with serious emotional problems and penchant for theatrically staged, cry for help suicide attempts. As the film develops we start to see parallels between London and Meanwhile City as locations have equivalent places in each city. We see the same characters appearing in the both realities. This is integral to the plot but also a nice touch by the filmmakers. There is a fantastic reveal as the camera moves through the wall of Emila’s apartment between the two worlds.
The film has a slow pace that may annoy some viewers but there is enough to hold the interest. It is more than half way through the film before it gives much away and starts bringing the characters together. The production design is excellent particularly the look of Meanwhile City. This is contrasted with the brighter more ordinary London setting. The two looks are bridged by Emilia’s apartment and costumes that could fit in either world. Although not spectacular the photography is good giving each character their own lighting and filming style. It is difficult to say more about the film without giving away key plot elements other than to say that although comparisons with Pan’s Labyrinth are valid this film falls a long way short of Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece. Although less successful there are still pleasing aspects such as clues within the story that make perfect sense with hindsight.
Considering it is director Gerald McMorrow’s fist feature film it is a very accomplished work that often looks more expensive than its approximately $12million budget. Although I enjoyed the film I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone it isn’t a film with universal appeal. You will notice the film is filed under DVD Gems, although it got a theatrical release it was in limited screens and none near me. It is yet to be released in the USA.
A note of trivia to finish on. Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany and John Hurt were all originally cast. McGregor broke his leg in a Motorbike accident. Viewers of Long Way Down will remember this happening. The delay and the subsequent Long Way Down trip caused a delay making the other two drop out as well. Eva Green was the original choice to play Emilia.