The Waiting Room
Anne-Marie Duff, Ralf Little, Rupert Graves, Frank Finlay, Zoe Telford / Fiction / English
Fresh, frank portrait of entangled London love lives.
Writer/director Roger Goldby’s remarkably assured feature debut breathes new life into the British romantic comedy. Revolving around the entangled love lives of a group of twenty and thirty-something South Londoners, this film is a fresh, wise and very funny guide to surviving relationships today.
An opening scene that sees parents Anna (Anne-Marie Duff) and George (Rupert Graves) deposit their kids in front of the TV while they nip upstairs for sex sets the tone. Here, romantic passion finds an uneasy accommodation with the humdrum reality of daily life – and throughout the film such routine obligations as childcare commitments and the school run are captured with breezy naturalism. The fact that Anna and George are not partners but neighbours, with George cheating on his wife Fiona, only adds to the frisson.
In a plot of lightly worn sophistication, Goldby introduces care-worker Stephen (Ralf Little) whose relationship with his long-term girlfriend receives a fatal blow when he and Anna fall for one another during a chance meeting at their local train station – a location that inevitably evokes Brief Encounter, another British film about deep romantic yearning pitted against the frustrations of suburban routine. A tale of unrealised desire and unhappy matches that sharply dissects the social codes governing the dating game today, The Waiting Room combines sly irony and heartfelt sentiment with an insouciance that justifies its acknowledged debt to Jane Austen.
Goldby’s deft handling of his multi-plotted storylines – which criss-cross like train lines at the station where Anna and Stephen meet – is anchored in his experience directing popular ensemble television dramas such as Cutting It. He’s helped enormously by a terrific cast: Duff, with her poignant mixture of strength and vulnerability; Graves, who brings a boyish, rogue-like charm to George; and the highly impressive Little – still best known as the younger brother from TV sitcom The Royle Family, but here showing leading-man charisma.
Intelligent, adult entertainment, The Waiting Room is a bracingly clear-headed account of relationships hitting sticky patches. But it’s also a deeply romantic movie that will renew your faith in the idea of love at first sight.
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