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James Manning (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife Anne (Emily Watson) live an ideal life, dividing their time between their country estate in Buckinghamshire and a London apartment. Immediately before a house party, the husband of the Mannings' cleaner is killed in a hit and run accident. Life immediately changes for James, Anne and their upper-crust neighbour Bill Bule (Rupert Everett), who has recently returned to England from America. Police begin to investigate, but James discovers there is more at stake.

Review by Louise Keller:
Although there's an accident, adultery and death, Separate Lies is no who-dun-it. Oscar winning script-writer Julian Fellowes' directing debut is a fascinating character study of lies, truth and the consequences. His adaptation of Nigel Balcin's novel A Way Through The Wood offers a front row seat in the life of a man whose emotional turmoil prompts him to question his own morals when his natural instinct to tell the truth twists into a lie.

'No life is perfect - even if it seems to be,' says Tom Wilkinson's well-to-do lawyer James Manning. His life with wife Anne (Emily Watson) certainly looks idyllic as they spend their days in the picturesque two-storey country estate with large garden and loyal canine friend. But appearances can be deceptive, and as this story of relationships starts to unravel, we smell the uncomfortable stench of dissatisfaction. Wilkinson is the heart and soul of the film, delivering a powerful performance as the Englishman caught up in his privileged life in which he believes himself to be happy. Respect and authority at work; comfortable elegance at home, where his obliging wife offers him a choice of three desserts or cheese at the dinner table.

The film's beautiful settings in rural Buckinghamshire contrast the discomfort of the emotional state of the characters. When James checks into the swish Georges V in Paris - the hotel for the man with everything - it is as though he is the man with nothing. Wilkinson's facial expression often captured in close up brings some of the film's most powerful moments. During the scene in the kitchen, when Anne is chopping avocado and parsley for the salad, James' face is almost twisted in pain as she drops not one, but two bombshells.

Watson is also excellent, displaying the outward cool reserve of the English, yet burning with intensity at the situations she finds herself confronted by. Rupert Everett's Bill Bule is surprisingly uncharismatic with a constantly sullen expression. Undoubtedly, this is due to the fact the story is told from James' point of view, and is the way he would have perceived him.

Visually plush and emotionally restrained, Separate Lies is a film to cogitate. Engaging, intriguing and touching, it's about being overburdened with guilt and bewildered by the varying principles that apply when someone else's problem becomes your own.

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(UK, 2005)

CAST: Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Rupert Everett, Hermione Norris, John Warnaby, Richenda Carey, Linda Bassett

PRODUCER: Steve Clark-Hall, Christian Colson

DIRECTOR: Julian Fellowes

SCRIPT: Julian Fellowes (Novel by Nigel Balchin)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tony Pierce-Roberts

EDITOR: Alex Mackie, Martin Walsh

MUSIC: Stanislas Syrewicz


RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes



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