Sliding Doors

Reviewed by Van T. Tran


Paramount, widescreen 1.85:1, languages: English DD 5.1 & 2.0, subtitles: English & Spanish, single side-single layer, scene selections-19 chapters, rated R, 99 min., $29.99, street date 12/1/98.

Studio Line

Directed by Peter Howitt. Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, John Hannah, John Lynch, Jeanne Tripplehorn.

What if one split second sent your life in two completely different directions? Sliding Doors is a contemporary love story that follows one woman's life beyond that deciding moment - down two different paths.

Helen's (Gwyneth Paltrow) destiny is about to be determined by the sliding doors of a London subway train. If she makes it aboard, her life takes on a new direction. If she is left standing on the platform, she has a whole different future to face.

In a parallel stories, the movie follows Helen's life down both paths: in a tale that is by turns mysterious, romantic, dangerous, comedic - and utterly unpredictable.

We all have but one life to live. Helen gets the same time.

Picture/Sound/Extras (B/B-/F)

First-time Brit director/writer Peter Howitt has given us an intriguing romantic comedy in Sliding Doors, a movie that explores the fascinating concept of fate, and how trivial matters in our daily encountering could have far more profound consequences in our lives than we realize. The movie's humor and wit reminded me most of Four Weddings and a Funeral, my favorite romantic comedy of all-time. Incidentially, John Hannah, who also appeared in Four Weddings, plays the love interest of Gwyneth Paltrow. They have a wonderful screen presence together, with a solid supporting cast to boost. The script is effective in juggling the two paths of Helen's life, keeping me caring and guessing till the very end.

As with most of Paramount releases, the DVD is sorely lacking in feature. Given that there is no extra, I would prefer that the disc would automatically play when inserted. The default soundtrack of the movie is Pro-Logic, so if you have a Dolby Digital setup, you would need to make that selection on the menu each time. The soundtrack options could not be selected during the movie. With that aside, I am quite pleased with the transfer. The picture is perfectly matted at approximately 1.85:1. 16x9 enhancement is not available to widescreen set owners, and while I detest pan and scan format, the movie would be suitable for those that prefer the format and should be made available on the unused side. Images are generally sharp, but prone to graininess at times, mostly on static backgrounds. Also exhibiting are minor jaggedness on edges and dirt particles on the print. Colors, however, are striking, with memorable scenes of neon displays inside the small diner and the picturesque Hammersmith Bridge at night against the twinkling skyline backdrop. Fleshtones are natural throughout.

The Dolby Digital soundtrack has a good use for the front channels, but little else for the surrounds. Occassionally, there are realistic effects of pouring rain and crowd noise, which are the extended mix for the surrounds. The movie does have a delightful collection of songs from British bands that lend nicely to the setting. As for the dialogue, I believe that I read once somewhere that the movie was dubbed on some prints with a friendlier accent for the American audiences. Thankfully, this is not the dubbed version, but for the untrained ears, the British accent could be difficult to understand, with Paltrow sporting a perfect native accent. In which case, you can always turn on the subtitles.

Sliding Doors is a deeply satisfying movie that kept me laughing and pondering at the same time. Despite the lack of feature, this DVD is highly recommended.

Related Sites

Current as of 12/3/98

  • James Berardinelli's ReelViews--"The script is shrewd and inventive, combining wit, romance, and intelligent melodrama into a crowd-pleasing whole."
  • Roger Ebert--"As we switched relentlessly back and forth between A and B, I found that I wasn't looking forward to either story."
  • Celebsite: Gwyneth Paltrow--Full bio, news, interviews, and fan site ratings.
  • John Lynch Shrine--If you're like me and don't have a clue about this Irish actor, this would be a good place to find out.
  • to purchase are the DVD at 30% off and the soundtrack CD.

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