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Released: January 15th 2004 UK)

Director:Mike Nichols

Stars: Clive Owen, Natalie Portman

Certificate:15 (UK)

Reviewer: Saahil Dama

‘Hello, stranger.’

Those two words will stick with you throughout Closer; just two words that yet speak volumes about the movie and about modern-day relationships. They say if you believe in love at first sight, you never stop looking. In a world where people change faster than they can remove clothes (Closer shows just how fast people can do both) it holds surreally true.

Revolving around four interlinked characters, Closer is a modern-day take on love, relationships, betrayal, perfidy, break-ups and intercourse. In the opening scene, Dan (Jude Law) and Alice (Natalie Portman) are walking towards one another on a crowded London pavement. As the singer in the background croons, they can’t take their eyes off each other – a euphemism for tumbling headfirst into love at first glance. As Alice turns to cross the road, she is hit by an oncoming cab. Dan rushes her to the hospital and they form a bond of sorts which evolves and changes meaning over a period of time. Months later, Dan is smitten by Anna (Julia Roberts), a divorcee who doesn’t care as much for him. He wants her and she becomes his obsession. Anna, on the other hand falls for Larry (Clive Owen), thanks to a prank by Dan. But everything is not as straight-forward as it seems. While married to Larry, Anna secretly covets Dan, who lives with Alive. In this crisscrossing network of longing and lust, Closer gives an up-close and slightly cynical perspective of what love really means, if anything at all.

The four characters are a study in contrast. Initially introduced, Daniel Wooltz is a failed writer turned obituarist. When he meets Alice, he adopts her almost like a father to a child. However, when he sees Anna, an alter-ego is revealed. Dan drops his façade and morphs from a loving man who adores the child-like Alice despite her inadequacies into a deceiving philander. He plays a particularly nasty prank on Larry and snatches Anna away from him just when the two were settling into a happy existence. But at times, he seems to be trying too hard to be bad, which he isn’t, forgetting what goes around comes around and that payback can be a bitch.

Alice Ayres is an innocent, juvenile twenty-something. She is the youngest of the lot. As Larry once says to Anna, ‘You’re a woman. She’s a girl.’ She is an immigrant from New York where she worked as a stripper. The reason she left New York is simple; she wanted to end a relationship. However, she wants to love and be loved. That is all Alice cares about.

Dr. Larry is a dermatologist and perhaps the nastiest of them all. He doesn’t take being cheated on easily and works hard for revenge. Larry is a narcissist of sorts, often assuming himself to be better than those around him. He takes genuine pleasure in hurting back after he has been hurt. But, he isn’t a bad man. He dearly loves Anna when they are married. He is compelled to become bad because of the situation imposed upon him. The scariest thing about him, unlike Dan, is that when he wants to be wicked, he knows how to.

Anna is soft-spoken photographer. She does not speak about her feelings but they are clearly visible through her expressions. She is subdued through most of the film, except for occasional outbursts here and there. She is hooked by Dan’s boyish charms and deserts the man who actually loved her. She is what we can call in crude terms, a slut of sorts.

There is sense of morbidity through the film, and it has been well conveyed through the atmosphere. Most scenes have been shot in shot in dull lights with tinges of blue. Besides the characters themselves, it radiates the prevalent moroseness in the movie. The gloom saddens you, adding to the overall effect of the film. Closer is really well made and shot.

Despite there being various deceptions and betrayals, the characters are honest in themselves. It shows their honesty and their cold heartedness. Though they really love the people they are originally with, they can’t help but cheat, only to accept it later on. It begs the question of if love really exists, and if it does, then does it necessarily have to be for just one person.

Closer is not your stereotypical romantic movie. It remains true to its name and shows a frighteningly close version of how relationships are. Nothing is more contrived than how things are in real life. The direction is brilliant. It appears like a neatly wrapped birthday present. The movie jumps from occasion to occasion, not wasting time in things that don’t change relationships. Days, weeks and months are gone in the passing of the minute. The film shows how humans are animals after all, with all their flaws and beastly desires. Though we might contradict that, the case Closer makes is surely impressive.

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