Sliding Doors-Peter Howitt
‘Sliding Doors’ is an episodic film that shows two storylines running parallel to each other.
Director Peter Howitt expands upon both possible fates of a character, Helen, after she just
misses/catches a train. The audience is left watching the outcome of how this one event
impacts so dramatically on her love life, her career, her home and whether or not she has a
In the first scenario Helen, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, loses her job as an advertisement
executive resulting in her heading home in the middle of the day. She just slips through the
‘sliding doors’ of the tube to meet a very cheerful, friendly man named James. Once home,
however, she walks in on her husband Gerry having an affair with a character named Lydia.
In the second scenario Helen just misses the train resulting in her going to get a cab;
unfortunately she get’s mugged and has to go to hospital for some stitches in her forehead.
By the time she gets home Lydia has left and Gerry is left startled at the concept of how
close he was to being caught. I really enjoyed this film mostly due to how clever it is, the
transitions between the two storylines were always very interesting. For example, one
transition goes from a scene in which Helen is laughing to a scene where she is crying. It
was also interesting to follow what are actually very simple storylines, and to see how
differently her life would’ve been if she had or hadn’t caught the train.
The character Gerry was an interesting one, at the beginning he is portrayed as a loving
partner who just wants what is best for Helen and himself, though once Helen has left for
work you see him take the phone off of the hook which immediately makes you as the
audience suspicious. You soon discover that he is a very decisive, sneaky and snakelike
character and immediately you dislike him. Although the audience is meant to dislike Gerry
you do start to follow the story of his struggle as well, he is drawn between being with Helen
or being with Lydia and his life becomes very confusing. Watching Gerry’s story made me
feel very sympathetic towards Helen, a woman who in one of the scenarios works three jobs
to support Gerry’s writing career only to find out that this whole time he has been sleeping
with another woman. The character of Gerry is a good contrast to the character of James
who is a very kind, supportive and caring man. In one scenario he becomes Helen’s love
interest and helps her to start her new life in which she starts her own business.
You realise at the end of the film that there is almost also a circular narrative as something
that happens at the beginning is repeated but with a slightly different outcome. I really
enjoyed this film as even though the two different storylines were quite simple I was
constantly telling myself ‘all of that has happened just because she missed a train’ or ‘all of
that happened just because she got on the train’ which I think was something Howitt wanted
the audience to think and then to question in their day to day lives. The film is a fascinating
idea but it wasn’t exactly what I expected, the plot is, when you think about it, a little boring.
If the two different scenarios weren’t running parallel too each other and you only got to see
one or the other it would be, for me, an incredibly boring film. That’s why the idea of the film
is so good because as an audience you don’t know which story is the real one, you don’t
know until the end if Helen did or didn’t get on her train, you want to keep watching to see
what the outcome is.