This guide comes from our archive. It was written by Rachel Helen Smith.
Martin (Pierce Brosnan) is a disgraced TV presenter. Jess (Imogen Poots) is the wild child daughter of a politician. JJ (Aaron Paul) is a failed musician from America. Maureen (Toni Collette) is a single mother with a disabled son. These four characters could hardly be more different, but they share a common intent: they want to kill themselves.
Their lives collide one New Year’s Eve on the roof of ‘Toppers’ House’, a popular London suicide spot. The unlikely situation allows them to form an equally unlikely bond, and they all commit to surviving the next six weeks. One holiday, two trips to the hospital and one media firestorm later they’re still friends. But will it be enough to convince them that life is worth living after all?
- Did you enjoy the film and why, or why not? If you had read the book, how did the film adaptation compare?
- What did you think of the casting? Were the actors well-suited to their roles? Which of the central performances stood out to you, and why?
- How did you respond to the voice-over, which passes between the characters? Did it make a difference that the film was narrated by four very different characters, and if so, how?
- Which of the characters did you find the most sympathetic? What reasons did they each give for wanting to end their lives? Did this affect the way that you felt towards them and why, or why not?
- Did you find the film funny, and which moments in particular made you laugh? By contrast, did you find any moments especially moving or upsetting? Did the director find the right balance with the emotional tone overall, and can you give any reasons for your answer?
- How did the ending of the film make you feel? Did it seem to provide an adequate conclusion to what had gone before? Overall, would you describe A Long Way Down as a ‘feel-good film’ and why, or why not?
- How did you react to the romantic sub-plots in the film? What did they bring to the story, and did they have any function other than as plot devices? Why are romantic narratives so important to us in general?
- If you have seen any film adaptations of Hornby’s other books (About A Boy, High Fidelity, Fever Pitch) how is this film similar to some of his other stories, and in what ways is it different? Taken together, what view of life does Hornby seem to offer?
- What, if anything, does the film have to say about responsibility and culpability? Which of the characters is ‘to blame’ for the state that their life is in? Does this affect the way that you respond to them, and should it?
- To what extent should the film be praised for bringing the difficult and sometimes taboo issues of desperation and suicide into the public arena? What particular moral issues does it raise, and to what extent does it allow viewers an insight into the realities of depression?
- By contrast, to what extent should the film be criticised for making these difficult issues the subject matter of a comic film? Is it ever appropriate to joke about these issues, and who has the authority to make this decision? Is there a danger that the film could be seen as offensive, and in what way?
- Both at the beginning and the end of the film, what persuades the characters to go on living? How do they go about finding significance and stability in their lives? More generally, where does our society tell us that we will find purpose and meaning?
‘I don’t mind the pain. It’s the hope that kills me.’ – JJ
- How important is the idea of hope to the various characters, and why does JJ find it painful? How might people in your community define the word hope? Where, and why, might we look for hope when our life circumstances don’t seem to offer us any?