Separate Lies
Directed by: Julian Fellowes
(Fox Searchlight)
The first feature by the Academy Award-winning writer of Gosford Park is an odd little affair, and brief, clocking in at a little over 80 minutes. Upper crust London solicitor James (Tom Wilkinson) and his young wife, Anne (Emily Watson) live well at their country house. A neighbour, Bill (Rupert Everett, cadaverous), enters their lives. James isn’t pleased: “Fuck Bill,” he says. “That’s the thing,” says Anne. “I do. Or rather, he fucks me.” While driving Bill’s Range Rover, Anne knocks down a local man, killing him, and as the local police investigate, James does his best to cover it all up, all the while trying to accept his wife’s ongoing infidelities. Separate Lies clips along too quickly to bore but when you find yourself preoccupied by the impeccably art-directed sets, something isn’t quite right. It’s in the casting of Watson and Wilkinson as wife and husband—they’re bloodless, all thought and no loin. It’s Anne’s conscience that gets the best of her—the dead man is the husband of their housekeeper—but too late to provoke much sympathy. As the “dangerous” third party, Everett is so laconic it’s as if he’ll slip into a coma at any moment. As a story of manslaughter and marriage-on-the-rocks, Separate Lies never uncovers anything resembling passion, leaving the audience unstirred.
—Carsten Knox

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