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:: Closer

Closer is a startlingly honest portrait of love, sex and selfish passion. Writer Patrick Marber has stayed faithful to his original play, with clever dialogue that balances wit with heartache, and a cast of only four characters.

It follows the fate of two couples, whose lives intersect at various points over several years. The two relationships are inextricably tied together by an undeniable attraction between the man in one couple and the woman in the other. Big jumps in time only show us the highlights (or rather lowlights) of each relationship. The cruel games played out by the characters to secure a feeling of being loved are petty, resentful, and accurate. When loved, these people need it proven, and when betrayed, they need to know by how much, where, when and why.

Natalie Portman plays Alice, an ex-stripper from America who falls in love with a stranger, Daniel (Jude Law), soon after arriving in London. She seems faithful, open, and adoring but her emotional scars may mean she’s not really a martyr to love. Portman is outstanding as this diamond in the rough, holding her own against more experienced cast members like Julia Roberts.

Celebrated Director, Mike Nichols (The Graduate, The Remains of the Day) gets the best out of all his actors and Jude Law also gives a solid performance. His character Daniel is a familiar type. He is someone who doesn’t recognise love from lust, so he goes through the motions of relationships but never truly engages with the other person. His ‘smooth it over’ attitude covers only cowardice, which is inevitably self-sabotaging.

Anna and Larry (Julia Roberts and Clive Owen), have a more mature relationship in some ways, though neither couple is ever free of doubt and temptation. Clive Owen is also notable in this film, though his character is no knight in shining armor. Larry consciously nasty and is all too real for it. In a revealing exchange with Alice at a strip club, we see him cold and spiteful towards love, women, and everything that has let him down.

This brilliant piece is open and direct about the trials of modern love. As such, it explores the baggage, the romance sex, dirty Internet sex, true love and deceit. Closer is a film about and for grown-ups, trying to figure each other out in a world where everyone’s a stranger, more or less.