Friday, 11 December 2015

The Waiting Room (2007)

I bought The Waiting Room from Amazon on the strength of the actors and because of my love for small British indie films. I didn't know much of the story, beyond it being a romance (obviously) I just bought it on impulse because it was going for silly money - like pennies.

This is another example of the marketing not doing the film credit. I actually expected a romcom; look at the DVD sleeve I've posted at the top of this review, it just says romcom really doesn't it? Then there's the fact that Ralf Little has a background in comedy, and Anne-Marie Duff can play both comedy and drama equally well. But this is actually a romantic drama, and a rather bittersweet one.

Anne-Marie Duff stars as Anna, a single mum who, at the start of the film commences a brief, fumbling affair with the house-husband next door, George (Rupert Graves) despite his wife Jem (Zoe Telford) being Anna’s best friend. En route to work one day, Anna sees a distressed old man on the train station platform. The old man, Roger played by Frank Finlay, explains that he's waiting for his wife and expected her on the train Anna had just come off. Anna takes him to the titular station waiting room to check when the next train is, presuming his wife will be on that one instead, when nurse Stephen (Ralf Little) appears to take Roger back to the care home he works at - it's clear that Roger's wife has long since died and the poor old boy refuses to acknowledge the fact, returning to the station at the same time day after day. It's love at first sight for Anne and Stephen, who exchange longing, meaningful looks before going their separate ways; Stephen back to his loveless relationship with girlfriend Fiona (Christine Bottomley) and Anna to her conscience regarding her big mistake with George and her rather useless ex husband, a Dick and Dom style children's TV performer played by Adrian Bower. The rest of the action explores both Anna and Stephen's separate storylines and how they break away from the relationship mistakes they have made in light of, and because of, this extremely brief encounter. It's a bold move for a romance to keep its romantic protagonists apart, but Roger Goldby's sweet and somewhat slight directorial debut does so, keeping the audiences guessing and involved in the will-they/won’t-they get together question.

Goldby's film carries its central message of both the literal waiting room (where the chance meeting arises) and the figurative waiting room of the central characters, and by extension many of our own, lives (life as a kind of waiting room, hoping for something better to come along and often settling for second best, thinking it just won't happen for you) very effectively and uses its components - train stations as transient situations to compare with the strangers passing through and connecting momentarily, the older people Stephen cares for having lessons to impart from the life they lived - in a well observed, low key manner. It's also refreshing to see a London on screen (Balham, in fact) that focuses on the middle class and the elderly as opposed to the usual Hugh Grant romcom six degrees of separation from toffs and aristos, or the Guy Ritchie mockney underclass, but, whilst a tighter focus may have made this film a little bit more special, eradicating some of Goldby's more willfully obscure elements. Still, I really can't complain for the pennies I spent on it and the accomplished cast also includes Phyllida Law, Daisy Donovan, Lizzy McInnerny and Allan Corduner.

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