Published Oct 01, 2005James (Tom Wilkinson) is troubled when his cleaning lady's husband is run down near his country home. By pursuing his suspicions, he uncovers an affair between his wife, Anne (Emily Watson), and local cad Bill (Rupert Everett).
The always affable Tom Wilkinson portrays a perfection-obsessed lawyer with panache and dignity, and Emily Watson is riveting as Anne, a dutiful wife who'd rather have an affair than disturb her placid life. Linda Bassett, who played cranky domestic Nelly in The Hours, steals the show as Maggie, the cleaning lady who unexpectedly turns the story on its ear.
Rupert Everett, unfortunately, seems bored, like he'd rather be anywhere but onscreen. And though the story tries to keep us guessing, it's an unnecessary confession at an important point in the film that ruins the show. After that, it's hard to believe anything. Why would a main character suddenly give up a secret she doesn't have to? She should have no choice but to give it up, then it's believable.
Separate Lies imposes on us by asking too much, and the character arcs don't make sense. Why would Anne continue an affair that's caused so much destruction? And why would James continue to love her? There's no demonstration of an undying love between James and Anne or Bill and Anne; it's simply unbelievable.
And Separate Lies, like many of its characters, suffers from a personality crisis. It swings between heartfelt domestic drama and Hitchcock-ian suspense; it's difficult to believe that the actors could shine through such a faulty script, but most of them do. Unfortunately, their performances aren't enough to save Separate Lies. (Fox Searchlight)