out of Five
Running time: 98
Woody Allen's latest comedy-drama features superb performances from a traditionally impressive cast but is let down by a disappointing script that seems to actively avoid dramatic impact.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Woody Allen, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is set in London and stars Gemma Jones as Helena, a 60-something woman who becomes dependent on the advice of fake medium Cristal (Pauline Collins) after her husband of 40 years (Anthony Hopkins as Alfie) leaves her and shacks up with gold-digging “actress” Charmaine (Lucy Punch). Meanwhile, Alfie and Helena's daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) is having trouble with her husband Roy (Josh Brolin), who's struggling to write his second novel.
In order to pay their mounting bills, Sally takes a job at an art gallery, where she soon falls for her charming boss Greg (Antonio Banderas). Meanwhile, an unexpected tragedy presents Roy with a temporary if morally dubious solution to his writing problem and he also finds himself increasingly drawn to Dia (Freida Pinto), a sexy young woman who moves into the apartment across the courtyard.
Say what you like about Woody Allen's recent output, but he can always be relied upon to get terrific performances out of an impressively assembled cast of A-listers: accordingly, Watts (busting out her authentic but rarely used English accent) is superb as Sally and Brolin is excellent as her put-upon husband. Hopkins is, admittedly, coasting a bit as Alfie, but Punch is very funny as Charmaine (though her broadly comic character does occasionally seem out of place) and Jones finds an intriguing line between extremely irritating (in that she's constantly nagging both Sally and Roy) and rather moving in her quiet, underlying sadness and loneliness.
In addition, there's strong support from Anna Friel (as a bubbly artist friend Sally recruits for Greg's gallery) and Pinto acquits herself nicely as Dia, even if her relationship with Roy doesn't really ring true.
Aside from a distracting and unnecessary voiceover, the main problem with the film is that entire scenes seem to be missing (there's no confrontation between Sally and Roy over Dia, for example), as if there was no interest in dramatic conflict at all. There's also at least one important plot detail that's impossible to swallow and the story is badly let down by a disappointing ending that feels inconclusive.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is never less than watchable thanks to a clutch of typically superb performances, but the overall story is ultimately disappointing and the laughs are very much of the blackly ironic variety.
You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger (12A)