Last weekend I had the opportunity to curl up on my couch and watch a somewhat obscure romantic “dramedy” starring Gwyneth Paltrow called Sliding Doors, thanks to my Netflix streaming service. I first saw this movie about eight years ago and instantly loved it. While this is not a movie that Gwyneth is widely known for, it is worth watching if you are in the mood for a fun, 90’s, British romance.
Sliding Doors (1998) Starring Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah
This movie has a very interesting plot that centers around the age-old question we all ask ourselves: “What if?”
Paltrow stars as Helen, a twenty-something Public Relations professional living in London with her jobless novelist boyfriend, Gerry (played by Irish actor John Lynch). Now, Gweneth Paltrow is not British but she speaks in a pretty convincing British accent in this movie, so don’t worry about it being an issue (sometimes it really bothers me when American actors have horrible fake accents in movies). Anyway, Helen gets sacked from her job at the PR firm and, feeling pretty down on her luck, sets off for home where Gerry at that very moment is having an affair in their apartment with another woman, thinking Helen will be at work all day long and he won’t get caught (what a sleaze). When Helen gets to the subway station there is a little girl playing on the stairs that she has to dodge, which slows her down by a few seconds. Enough to make her arrive to the subway just as the doors slide shut, and she misses her train.
And here’s where things get interesting. The film footage rewinds, and you see the same little girl playing on the steps, but this time her mother moves her out of the way, in turn causing Helen to make it to her train on time and get on. In this side of the story, when Helen catches the subway she ends up sitting next to a witty and charming Scottish man named James, played by John Hannah (you know, the funny brother from The Mummy).
James strikes up a conversation and tries to cheer her up because she so obviously looks depressed. He makes her laugh and she apologizes for being rude, she gets off the train and makes it to her apartment in time to find her scum-bag boyfriend Gerry sleeping with another woman. She leaves him, moves in with her best friend, gets a new blonde hair-do, starts her own PR firm and begins to date James, who makes her very happy and who the audience clearly would rather see her with.
In the other side of the story, the Helen that misses the subway gets mugged and attacked while trying to hail a cab to get home, and is taken to the hospital where she is treated for very minor injuries. But because of this she doesn’t arrive at home until after Gerry’s lover leaves her apartment, so she has no idea her boyfriend is a scum-bag. Helen stays with him while he continues to have an affair behind her back, she gets two crummy part-time jobs, and never meets James.
Both sides of the story unfold throughout the movie until the climactic end where the two worlds finally collide in a tragic event, and only one side of the story can become reality. So, which will it be – happiness with James, or lies with Gerry? Watch it to find out! I will tell you this: it has a happy ending, though not at all what you expect!
Overall, I really enjoyed Sliding Doors because of the romance and wit, but also because of the creative demonstration that our lives could be so different in just the blink of an eye. This movie will definitely make you ask yourself “what if?” Oh, and it will also make you want to get your hair chopped off and dye it platinum blonde. How cute is Gwyneth Paltrow’s hair??