You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, writer/director Woody Allen’s fortieth feature film, is tale of chicanery, infatuation and disappointment, and reunites one of the world’s best directors with the beautiful city of London.
The film follows a pair of married couples, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones), and their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) and husband Roy (Josh Brolin), as their passions, ambitions, and anxieties lead them into trouble and out of their minds.
After Alfie leaves Helena to pursue his lost youth and a free-spirited call girl named Charmaine (Lucy Punch), Helena abandons rationality and surrenders her life to the loopy advice of a charlatan fortune teller.
Unhappy in her marriage, Sally develops a crush on her handsome art gallery owner boss, Greg (Antonio Banderas), while Roy, a novelist nervously awaiting the response to his latest manuscript, becomes moonstruck over Dia (Freida Pinto), a mystery woman who catches his gaze through a nearby window.
Though not Allen’s strongest material, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger still has a solid story, blending the ups and downs of each relationship, and highlighting the hypocrisies of marriage. Allen clearly still has a way of letting his stories unfold in an eloquent and timely manner.
Through the unstable characters’ troubled relationships, Allen not only examines how people deal with mortality but also how we cope with life, love and existence in general.
The film, however many life-altering questions it brings up, ends just when complications set in, which not only makes you wonder how invested Allen really is with the characters’ lives, but also makes it harder to empathise with their troubled being.
The characters, from Jones’ Helena neurotic to Brolin’s anguished Roy, feel more like puppets rather than human beings with natural instincts, human emotions and comprehensible senses. They all come over as extremely egocentric and have little to offer in the way of benevolence to their counterparts.
Jones leads the cast perfectly with her portrayal of Helena. Watts, Brolin and Hopkins fail to break free of their limited dialogue and uncoloured characters, and, the shamefully wasted trio of Punch, Friel and Banderas who, despite having the most interesting on-screen personaes, are not given enough time to thrive amongst their equally underused counterparts.
While the acting isn’t up to the heights of Vicky Christina Barcelona, Annie Hall or even Match Point, it’s impressively low key enough to be a joy to watch.
You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is by no means Allen’s best film, but it’s also not his worst. It’s well-plotted, beautifully directed, contains some mildy humorous moments and isn’t short of talented actors.
It’s irritating, then, that it’s let down so wrongly by glorified scenery, under-developed characters and a script that seems to foolishly avoid dramatic impact.