Complete A-Z list

Two Lovers


Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw, Isabella Rossellini, Moni Moshonov, Elias Koteas

Director: James Gray

A dreary New York-set romantic drama, shot in murky colour and starring Phoenix as the survivor of two suicide attempts after his fiancee leaves him. Constantly on pills for a bipolar problem, he seems destined for a dead-end life in the laundry run by his father (Moshonov) when he encounters two contrasting women: Sandra (Shaw), the daughter of another Jewish laundry owner, and Michelle (Paltrow), his beautiful but volatile neighbour.

He makes love to Sandra, but can't subdue his yen for Michelle, even when he discovers she's having an affair with a married man (Koteas) she hopes will leave his wife for her.

Phoenix, channelling Marlon Brando from On the Waterfront, gives a more upbeat performance than you might expect from the role, although he's entitled to smile after Paltrow tells him 'That was beautiful' after they manage sex (fully-clothed) in about 15 seconds on the chilly roof of their apartment building.

The pacing of the thing, however, drags and sometimes stalls altogether: you could close your eyes, listen to the dialogue and not miss a thing. The upside us that you don't know how this is going to end. The downside is you don't know when it's going to end.

David Quinlan

USA 2008. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Technicolor.
110 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 24 Mar 2009