This file was generated 2002-06-09 04:23 GMT. This movie's information hasn't changed since 2002-05-22.
Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> December 1998 >> Sliding Doors
As soon as the words "alternative timelines" hit you, you probably think I'm about to talk about something sci-fi. Sliding Doors applies alternative timelines to a romance plot. I'm reminded of a Ray Bradbury short story, the name of which eludes me. In that, safari hunters travel back in time to hunt dinosaurs. One accidentally kills a butterfly in addition to his assigned dinosaurs, and when he returns to the present, the spelling of the English language is completely different. Here, the difference between catching and not catching a subway causes some massive differences in the course of a woman's life.
Gwyneth Paltrow gets to play two twists on the same woman. The character is a warm and engaging person who ends up having a really rotten day. Precisely how rotten changes a bit, and several months of her life play out, with each timeline pursuing a different romance. Although she is never required to play both characters in one scene or make an on-camera transition, Paltrow still makes the attitudes and postures of the two Helens distinct. Paltrow displays a flawless command of a British accent, despite her birthplace of California. She is very believable and warms up the screen with her presence.
A simple visual flash alerts us to the split in timelines. This is tastfully done in a way that doesn't overstate what's happening. The director did not add a patronizing voiceover, and it's appreciated. After the split, there are visual indications of which timeline we're watching, such that the gimmick never gets in the way of understanding either story. The overlaps and similarities are done well enough to actually make the dual timeline seem rather natural. In several cases, there are dazzling crossovers, as a long shot at one timeline becomes a close-up shot in the other.