Married Life (2007 film)

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Married Life
Marriedlife galleryposter.jpg
Original theatrical poster
Directed by Ira Sachs
Produced by Ira Sachs
Steve Golin
Sidney Kimmel
Jawal Nga
Written by Ira Sachs
Oren Moverman
Based on Five Roundabouts to Heaven
by John Bingham
Starring Chris Cooper
Patricia Clarkson
Pierce Brosnan
Rachel McAdams
Music by Dickon Hinchliffe
Cinematography Peter Deming
Edited by Affonso Gonçalves
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics
Release date
  • September 12, 2007 (2007-09-12) (Toronto International Film Festival)
Running time
90 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12 million[1]
Box office $2,843,997

Married Life is a 2007 American drama period film directed by Ira Sachs. The screenplay by Sachs and Oren Moverman is based on the 1953 novel Five Roundabouts to Heaven by John Bingham. Cast members include Patricia Clarkson, Chris Cooper, Rachel McAdams and Pierce Brosnan.[2] The novel was also the basis for the December 20, 1962 episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour entitled "The Tender Poisoner".


Set in 1949, the film focuses on successful middle-aged businessman Harry Allen (Chris Cooper), who is having an affair with considerably younger war widow Kay Nesbitt (Rachel McAdams). Feeling rejuvenated by his emotional reawakening, he confides in his best friend Richard Langley (Pierce Brosnan) and encourages him to visit his mistress in order to alleviate her loneliness. Richard complies and immediately finds himself attracted to the young woman.

Richard discovers Harry's wife Pat (Patricia Clarkson), oblivious to her husband's ongoing tryst, is engaged in an affair of her own with John O'Brien (David Wenham). Anxious to cement his blossoming relationship with Kay, Richard separately urges Harry and Pat to remain with each other.

Harry, however, is determined to marry Kay. Certain divorce would hurt and humiliate Pat too much, Harry decides to kill her by lacing her daily digestive aid with poison. He visits Kay, who unexpectedly ends their relationship. Harry departs, then returns to ask for all the correspondence he has sent her, only to discover Kay in the arms of Richard, who had secreted himself upstairs. Realization sets in, and Harry races home to stop his wife from taking her nightly dose of medication. When Harry returns home he finds his wife sleeping, thinking she consumed the poison Harry walks towards the bedroom window and opens it. He is startled by Pat waking up and saying, "You're home early, is everything all right honey." Harry looks out the window in his backyard and sees John O'Brien running away from the house while getting dressed. It was implied that at this moment Harry comes to know about Pat's infidelity. Harry never confronts her, maybe consumed by his own guilt.

Richard and Kay eventually wed and become part of the Allens' social circle, which includes John O'Brien and his wife. Harry and Pat continue to be on the periphery of their healing marriage.



Exterior scenes were shot in and around Vancouver, British Columbia. Interiors were filmed at the First Avenue Studio in Burnaby.

The film premiered at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival. That same year it was shown at the Festival do Rio in Brazil, the New York Film Festival, the Woodstock Film Festival, the American Film Market, and the Dubai International Film Festival, and it was shown at the 2008 Miami International Film Festival before finally going into limited release in the US on March 7, 2008. The film opened on nine screens and grossed $55,851 on its opening weekend. It eventually earned $1,507,990 in the US and $1,336,007 in foreign markets for a worldwide box office total of $2,843,997.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received mixed to positive reviews. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports 55% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 116 reviews,[4] while Metacritic reports it had an average score of 65 out of 100, based on 29 reviews.[5]

Stephen Holden of The New York Times called the film "a period comedy of manners merged with a suspenseful psychological thriller [that] aspires to be a hybrid of the sort that Alfred Hitchcock polished to perfection in the age of sexual subtext and subterfuge" but added it "does not provide the shivery security of being manipulated by Hitchcock, a master trickster who calculated his every move. The sense of being guided through a story by a sure-handed Hollywood magician toward a delightful trick ending is missing."[6]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated it three out of four stars and said it "crosses film noir with the look and feel of a Douglas Sirk film."[7]

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle observed the film "has the virtues of suspense, good performances and well-written scenes that are given time to breathe. That's what's entertaining about it. What's most interesting about it - its overall feeling - is harder to describe. Partly as a result of the period setting but mainly because of the movie's entire atmosphere... there's a quality of distance to the picture, as though we're seeing a case study. Or watching ourselves watch the movie. It's strange. It's different. It's arresting, and it's definitely intentional. Ira Sachs knew what he wanted to do, and he's a talent worth watching."[8]

Todd McCarthy of Variety commented, "The tone, casting and material form a less-than-perfect match in Married Life, a period domestic drama that never quite decides if it wants to be a credible marital study, a noirish meller or a sly comedy. The talented quartet of lead players feel oddly paired in this curious tale of jealousy, betrayal and murderous intent. Helmer Ira Sachs... appears to be working a bit out of his zone here... [The film] is dramatic but lacks a dynamic; one can sense the director's intent and affection for the form, but also see that working in this stylized vein does not necessarily come easily for a filmmaker of his hitherto more naturalistic tendencies."[9]

DVD release[edit]

The DVD release of the film includes three alternative endings, all of which advance the action to late 1966. Harry and Pat are returning home from their grandson's wedding when he is distracted by a billboard advertising the digestive aid he had laced with poison in order to murder his wife. In the first and longest of the three, he crashes the car and Pat is killed. Richard visits Harry in the hospital, and Harry asks him to bring him the same poison so he can kill himself. Richard complies, then is arrested and tried for Harry's murder. The audience is left not knowing the outcome. The second alternate ending matches the first up to the point of Harry consuming the poison, then fades to black. In the third, Harry pointedly sees the billboard, smiles wryly, and continues without crashing.


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