It’s not often that a film becomes so synonymous with a human experience that its title becomes a part of the human lexicon, but that’s exactly the case with film #100 in Shout! Factory’s Shout Select line of Blu-rays. A “Sliding Doors moment” has become synonymous with a life-changing moment in time where if things had gone the other way, one’s whole life could have gone down a completely different path.
When Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow) is fired from her job at a PR firm, she packs up her things and heads to the Tube station. The doors to her train are just about to close and she makes a run for it. Sliding Doors explores the two divergent stories of how catching (or not catching) that train would have affected the future of Helen’s life.
In the scenario where Helen does catch the train, she ends up sitting next to talkative passenger James (John Hannah), and arrives home early to discover her boyfriend Gerry (John Lynch) in bed with his ex Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn). Helen leaves to stay with her best friend Anna (Zara Turner). Later that evening, Helen is drinking and smoking alone in a bar, where she runs into James again. He cheers her up and offers her a ride home, and there’s a spark between them. Anna helps her friend get over her relationship with Gerry, beginning with a new haircut, and ideas of starting her own business. Helen continues to run into James and the two start a relationship.
Meanwhile, after Helen misses the train, her day gets worse, just in a different way. As Helen hails a cab, a man tries to mug her, knocking her down to the street. The taxi takes her to the emergency room to get her head stitched, and then she finally makes her way home. By this time Lydia has already left, and Gerry seems to have gotten away with his affair, managing to quickly hide the remaining evidence that lay around the apartment. Gerry continues his affair behind Helen’s back, as she takes on extra jobs to make ends meet and to allow Gerry time to work on his novel (though this is just an excuse for him to spend time with Lydia). Helen begins to suspect that something is going wrong, but every time she brings it up, Gerry turns things back on her.
Sliding Doors is part romantic comedy, part dramatic love story. It presents a very interesting look at the way our lives can change in an instant. Even when things look bleak, the situation can change and actually be the start of something new and better, or vice-versa. While the story does gets quite dramatic at times, there is also quite a bit of humor. Gerry is a source of a lot of physical comedy—the way he’s treating Helen is despicable, but he’s so bumbling and awful. There are lots of humorous near-misses where he almost gets discovered, and I was torn as to whether or not I wanted him to because it would mean an end to these moments. Throughout the film, there are also these Greek chorus-like cutaways to Gerry explaining his situation to his mate Russell (Douglas McFerran), who just laughs at his buddy’s never-ending conundrum. Lydia is deliciously conniving and manipulative, and you love to hate her. She was Gerry’s girlfriend before she headed to America for three years, and now that she has returned, she wants her man back. Meanwhile, James and Helen have such great chemistry, and it’s delightful to see the blossoming romance form between them. It’s a wonder why John Hannah didn’t become a bigger leading man after Four Weddings and a Funeral this—I can only guess it had something to do with his strong accent.
Another subconscious theme of the film is whether or not our lives are predetermined or if we have free will. Throughout the film, the two stories cross paths, with the characters ending up in the same locations, but under different circumstances. I really enjoyed the way the filmmakers weave back and forth between these two stories in the same locations—for example, one Helen may walk out of the bar, while the other Helen walks in. The film also does a good job of making sure you know which storyline is which. Due to her attempted mugging, the Helen who missed the train has a bandage on her forehead, and by the time this heals, the Helen who caught the train and discovered Gerry’s affair has already chopped and dyed her hair in order to make a fresh start.
The film still holds up quite well over 20 years later. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release provides excellent picture and sound. The picture looks amazingly clean and clear, with just a small, pleasant amount of grain. The audio track provides clear dialogue and a great score and 90s soundtrack. For this release, which is spine #100 of the Shout Select line of Blu-rays, the company has but together some excellent brand new bonus material. The discs includes an audio commentary from writer/director Peter Howitt, a feature-length documentary about the making of the film, and a fun look back at the filming locations. I really enjoyed the making-of documentary—it is a really creative way to present retrospective interviews with the cast and filmmakers, along with behind-the-scenes home video footage, in a way that forms an interesting narrative following the production timeline of the film. While I always enjoy the new retrospective interviews on these Shout Select Blu-rays, this took things to another level.
The Blu-ray disc comes packed in a standard HD keepcase with a slipcover. Like many other Shout Select releases, the insert inside the cover is reversible, giving the viewer a choice in how to display this title in his or her collection. The alternate view for this title can be seen below:
- 1080p / Widescreen 1.78:1
- Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Surround, English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo
- Subtitles: English SDH
Items marked as NEW contain brand new content created for this release.
- NEW Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Peter Howitt (1:38:46)
The writer/director provides a fun and informative commentary throughout the film. He talks about the story and performances, points out filming locations, shares behind-the-scenes stories about the production, and more. You can really sense his fondness for the film, especially the way his memories are still so detailed over 20 years later.
- NEW The Sliding Doors Moments — The Making of Sliding Doors (1:14:39)
In this feature-length documentary, the cast and filmmakers look back at the making of the film, along with some of home video footage taken during the production. They talk about coming up with the idea for the film, the writing process, the common moments where the two stories overlap, the decision to kill one of the Helens, pitching the film, casting the film, the Sliding Doorsy way the film ended up being financed, working with Sydney Pollack, the characters’ accents, working with a first time director, editing the film and adding visual cues for the viewer, issues with the first cut of the film, test screening reactions, composing the score, how “a Sliding Doors moment” has become part of the human lexicon, and more. Includes interviews with writer/director Peter Howitt, producer Philippa Braithwaite, former Mirage Enterprises president Lindsay Doran, producer William Horberg, executive producer Nigel Sinclair, editor John Smith, composer David Hirschfelder, and stars John Hannah (“James”) and Gwyneth Paltrow (“Helen”).
- NEW A Stroll Through Sliding Doors London With Peter Howitt (12:25)
Writer-director Peter Howitt takes viewers on a fun tour of some of the London sites that appear in the film—he even reenacts some of the scenes. Matching clips from the movie appear in the bottom right corner of the screen.
- Theatrical Trailer (1:56)
- TV Spot — Trains (:32)
- TV Spot — Unique (:32)
- TV Spot — Sparks (:32)
- TV Spot — Home Video (:14)
Sliding Doors is a classic romantic comedy/drama that has made its way into the human lexicon. The film really holds up over two decades later. Gwyneth Paltrow is excellent in her dual roles, and the film made me wish we that John Hannah had been cast as the lead in more romantic comedies. Shout! Factory’s 100th Shout Select release includes some excellent new bonus features that are sure to please any longtime fan of this film making this Blu-ray a must own for fans. The release is also highly recommended for anyone else looking for a classic love story with a creative twist.