Drama | rated R (L,N,S) | starring Liam Neeson, Antonio Bandaras, Laura Linney | directed by Richard Eyre | 1:28 mins
When a husband (Liam Neeson) finds a message from another man professing his love to his wife of 25 years’ (Laura Linney) and further evidence that she cheated on him, he sets out to track down the other man and kill him.
Female adultery is always a finicky little topic that Hollywood doesn’t like to touch. Cheating men are usually written off as villains while women who cheat are usually written as justified by an abusive husband or struggling with complex issues of love greater than themselves. It’s a double standard and it’s lazy writing to boot. I can probably count on two hands the mainstream movies I’ve seen about female adultery and one of them was made by no less than Alfred Hitchcock. In all of those, Dial M For Murder, it’s remake and the standard-bearer on this subject Unfaithful, the husband is usually driven to violence and murder far greater than the marital transgression his wife committed. The Other Man seemed to be a different take on it. The one adultery movie where the husband didn’t kill the other man.
As Liam Neeson lures other man Antonio Bandaris into a coffee shop for a seamingly friendly game of chess, the stage is set for a mental and verbal cat and mouse game (if the chess game metaphor wasn’t obvious enough for you). Those scenes between the two of them could have simmered with suspense with the jilted husband turning the tables on the other man, luring him into a trap. But director Richard Eyre completely botches the tone, staging it as all like another routine conversation in which one guy just happens to talk about a long time lover and another sits there, unfriendly, asking terse questions and at times fuming with obvious rage. Had they really bonded as friends (or seemed to) the complications could have made for greater drama. Instead we get an unlikely friendship resting entirely on the charm of Bandaris (apparently everyone he meets is a friend), while Neeson simply rants and raves about him behind his back. We don’t buy any part of their relationship and Neeson for his part gives one of his most phoned in performances ever.
Back to where The Other Man fits into the pantheon of female infidelity movies. When the big moment for Neeson’s revenge reveal comes it’s just… confusing. Begging us to wonder what we may have missed. In the end we don’t get a women justified by her abusive husband or a man who one-ups her in the immorality department by killing the guy, no, we get something much, much dumber. And in one single ridiculous twist the movie runs away from it’s story, making it impossible to view the cheating woman as a villain in a way that can only be described as utter cowardace.
I’m surprised Eyre lets this film completely get away from him, coming off of the sensational, powerfully precise Notes on a Scandal (another female infidelity movie). The narrative of Other Man is unnecessarily convoluted, cursed with the bad idea of telling the story in a non-linear structure. It looks like it would rather spin our heads with a puzzle-box script than get under the skin of the characters were a potentially emotionally volitile drama like this should be. It all seems like a distraction by a filmmaker that isn’t confident enough in his story or characters to let them carry the film.