I like Julian Fellowes' debut directorial effort a great deal. It is a quiet, intelligent movie that shows empathy and sympathy with good people in difficult moral situations. There are no heroes and villains, but there is a great deal of humanity. The cast is exellent throughout, the direction competent, and the script, as always, interesting and insightful. SEPARATE LIES tells the tale of an upper-middle class English couple who live a superficially idyllic life in the sort of England that Richard Curtis tends to depict without irony. The husband is a successful lawyer in the City (Tom Wilkinson) whose priorities have become skewed toward work rather than toward his wife (Emily Watson). He is a fundamentally decent man who happens to work late rather a lot and undermine his wife in a number of small ways. She feels judged and criticised and is tired by it. She enters into an affair with a man (Rupert Everett) whose very indifference toward her is liberating. This is not, perhaps surprisingly, the cause of the "lies" flagged up in the title. Rather, a hit-and-run accident in the village threatens to implicate various members of the cast. How far should they lie to save innocent people from being hurt? How far can one lie, continuously, successfully? And how far can you say that you love someone until you see them at their worst/best? Just one example of what makes SEPARATE LIES fascinating viewing: the City lawyer has a secretary. The actress playing the secretary has little screen time and even fewer lines of dialogue. And yet, behind her prim and efficient exterior she manages to convey a frustrated love for the lawyer, a benevolent decency to his wife, a quiet pride in herself despite her vulnerability. This is old-fashioned drama at its best.
SEPARATE LIES went on release in Autumn 2005 and is now available on DVD.