The idea behind Sliding Doors is one that is rather original and intriguing. Imagine someone living two separate but shared storylines. One focuses on what happens if she were to miss the train she’s supposed to catch to go back home. The other focuses on what happens if she got on the train in time. They have the same people, but differ in terms of certain character actions and landmark events. It’s something that might have worked in The Twilight Zone. As a feature film, and one that relies on so many rom-com cliches, not so much.
Gwyneth Paltrow plays Helen, a woman who has recently been fired from her PR job. She storms out of the building, things in hand, and rushes to catch the train back home. In the first scenario we see, she misses it by a hair and is stranded waiting for the next one. But then the film rewinds and gives us another scenario in which Helen makes it onto the train.
There’s no explanation for this alternate storyline; it just happens. But they have their differences. In the scenario in which Helen catches the train, she comes home to find her boyfriend Gerry (John Lynch) in bed with another woman, Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn). In the one in which she misses the train, Gerry is still having an affair, but Helen doesn’t know.
Sliding Doors isn’t complicated in its narrative as it sounds. The film is easily digestible and is able to smoothly transition from one storyline to the next. The major problem is the narrative can only go so far before it becomes tiresome.
In the first scenario, Helen decides she needs a fresh start at life, after being sacked and then seeing her boyfriend in the sack with someone else. So, she cuts her hair, brightens it, and then starts her own successful PR firm. And she meets some rather charming fellow named James (John Hannah, a total delight here).
The second scenario has Gerry trying to hide the affair and also treat Helen out to a night out, so she can forget about the day she has had. But Helen knows something is up. Why were there two glasses in their room, if it has supposedly just been him at home this whole time? Gerry keeps dodging questions or flat-out lying just to keep the relationship together.
So, in both stories, Gerry is an obvious scumbag. He’s a wannabe novelist, who claims to be doing research but is instead hooking up with his ex, Lydia. One would think, after a while, the Helen in the second scenario would end it all and move on. But that’s not what the script calls for.
As Sliding Doors goes back and forth between the two stories, the characters become trapped in rom-com tropes and uninteresting dialogue. The more we stay with them, the less we care. Paltrow is excellent as Helen in both scenarios. The film’s opening sequence gives her one of the film’s few memorable lines about possibly growing a particular organ, if she remains in a workplace dominated by men.
By the end, though, Sliding Doors is something that could have worked really well with some more polishing and a better use of its concept. Resorting to numerous montages about Helen getting her life back together and other overused cliches make it seem like the alternate story gimmick was just that, and we as the viewer got suckered into another rom-com that plays it too safely.
The Shout! Select Blu-ray release of Sliding Doors is the 100th spine for this series. The picture is presented in 1080p high definition widescreen with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. There is some noticeable graininess in the transfer, but the overall picture is solid. The audio is a DTS-HD 5.1 Master track, and picks up the dialogue well, but some moments come across a little soft.
The special features on this release will please the fans of the movie. There is a new, commissioned artwork that serves as the sleeve - and also as one side of the Blu-ray covers - that is illustrated excellently. The other side of the Blu-ray cover is the film’s original poster. Other features include a full-length documentary that explores the behind the scenes of the movie and has new interviews with director Peter Howitt and the cast members. There is also a new commentary track provided by Howitt, and another feature that has him taking the viewer to certain locations where key moments of the movie were filmed.