Separate Lies

Rated 3.0

An affluent solicitor (Tom Wilkinson) discovers that he’s insufficiently solicitous toward his wife (Emily Watson), who proves the point through an affair with a sneering narcissist (Rupert Everett). There is also a manslaughter plot—the hit-and-run death by Range Rover of the solicitor’s cleaning lady’s husband—and accordingly a nagging suspicion that this film, the directorial debut of Academy Award-winning Gosford Park screenwriter Julian Fellowes, is essentially a well-reared soap opera. Or, hopefully, a satire of one? While Fellowes distracts himself from deciding on that, Wilkinson turns in a brilliant performance as a man who wears his haughtiness like emotional upholstery, only to discover that too much starch has left him brittle. As in the movies that have rightly endeared him to American audiences, from The Full Monty to In the Bedroom, Wilkinson ventures straight into the shadows of even the most absurd and potentially reductive scenario and safely returns with an exact description of its human proportions.