Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Peter Howitt|
|Written by||Peter Howitt|
|Music by||David Hirschfelder|
|Edited by||John Smith|
|Box office||$67 million|
Sliding Doors is a 1998 romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Peter Howitt and starring Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah, while also featuring John Lynch, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Virginia McKenna. The film alternates between two storylines, showing two paths the central character's life could take depending on whether or not she catches a train.
Helen Quilley (Gwyneth Paltrow) gets fired from her public relations job. As she leaves the office building, she drops an earring in the lift and a man picks it up for her. She rushes for her train on the London Underground but just misses it as the train doors close; but the film then rewinds and the scene is replayed, except that now she just manages to board the train. The film continues, alternating between the two storylines in which different events ensue (but with occasional intersections of the two).
In the storyline in which she boards the train, Helen sits alongside James (John Hannah) (the man in the lift) on the Underground and they strike up a conversation. She gets home to catch her boyfriend, Gerry (John Lynch), in bed with his American ex-girlfriend, Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn). Helen leaves him and moves in with her friend Anna (Zara Turner), and, at Anna's suggestion, she changes her hairstyle to make a fresh start.
James continues to serendipitously pop into Helen's life, cheering her up and encouraging her to start her own public relations firm. She and James fall in love despite her reservations about beginning another relationship so soon after her ugly breakup with Gerry. Eventually, Helen discovers that she is pregnant. Believing it is James' child, she goes to see him at his office. She is stunned to learn from James' secretary that he is married. James finds her on a bridge and explains that he was married but is now separated and planning a divorce, but he and his wife maintain the appearance of a happy marriage for the sake of his sick mother. After she and James declare their love, Helen walks out into the road and is hit by a van.
In the storyline in which Helen misses the train, subsequent services are delayed, so she exits the station and hails a taxi. A man tries to snatch her handbag and injures her, so she goes to the hospital. She arrives home after Lydia has left and she remains oblivious to Gerry's infidelity. Unable to find another PR job, she takes two part-time jobs to pay the bills. Gerry continues to juggle the two women in his life. Lydia, wanting Gerry for herself, resorts to dropping clues to Helen of their affair. Helen suspects Gerry of infidelity but later discovers that she is pregnant. She receives a phone call, allegedly for a job interview with an international PR firm. She tells Gerry that news but does not manage to tell him of her pregnancy. Lydia calls Gerry to her apartment, apparently to break up. Thinking Helen is at her interview, Gerry goes to see Lydia. While at Lydia's, Gerry answers the doorbell and sees Helen standing at the door. Helen is stunned to see Gerry, and Lydia drops the news of her own pregnancy to both. Distraught, Helen runs off and falls down Lydia's staircase.
In both storylines, Helen is taken to the hospital and loses her baby. Where she originally boarded the train and met her new-found love, James, she dies in his arms, right after he says he will make her very happy.
Where Helen missed the train, she recovers and tells Gerry to leave for good. Then, as Helen enters the lift to leave the hospital after recovering, she drops an earring. As in their brief encounter at the beginning of the film, James picks up the earring and gives it to her, and then he begins the same cheer-up joke as when they first met in the other storyline. But this time Helen correctly quotes the punch line, and they turn and look at each other.
- Gwyneth Paltrow as Helen Quilley
- John Hannah as James Hammerton
- John Lynch as Gerry
- Jeanne Tripplehorn as Lydia
- Zara Turner as Anna
- Douglas McFerran as Russell
- Paul Brightwell as Clive
- Nina Young as Claudia
- Virginia McKenna as Mrs. Hammerton
- Kevin McNally as Paul
- Christopher Villiers as Steve
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The scenes on the London Underground were filmed at Waterloo tube station on the Waterloo & City line and at Fulham Broadway tube station on the District line. Helen's flat is in Leinster Square. The American Diner is Fatboy's Diner whilst it was situated at Old Spitalfields Market. The scenes by the Thames were filmed next to Hammersmith Bridge and in the Blue Anchor pub in Hammersmith. The bridge featured is the Albert Bridge between Battersea and Chelsea. The late-night scene when Paltrow and Hannah walk down the street was filmed in Primrose Gardens (formerly Stanley Gardens) in Belsize Park. The final hospital scene where Helen and James meet in the lift was filmed at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on Fulham Road. Principal photography commenced on April 1, 1997 and concluded on May 28, 1997. The explicit dual timelines in this film are similar to a less emphasised split storyline in the 1949 film dealing with a train crash, The Interrupted Journey.
- Aimee Mann – "Amateur"
- Elton John – "Bennie and the Jets"
- Dido – "Thank You"
- Aqua – "Turn Back Time"
- Jamiroquai – "Use the Force"
- Abra Moore – "Don't Feel Like Cryin'"
- Peach Union – "On My Own"
- Olive – "Miracle"
- Dodgy – "Good Enough"
- Blair – "Have Fun, Go Mad"
- Andre Barreau – "Got a Thing About You"
- Andre Barreau – "Call Me a Fool"
British singer Dido's song "Thank You" made its appearance on the soundtrack, becoming a hit three years later. It was a commercial for this film featuring "Thank You" as background music that inspired rapper Eminem to use Dido's voice for his song, "Stan". The song eventually hit no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The Patty Larkin cover of "Tenderness on the Block" that plays during the final scene was never released due to copyright and recording issues.
The film opened at number 17 at the box office with $834,817 during its first weekend but increased by 96.5% to $1,640,438 on its second weekend. It ended up with a total gross of $11,841,544 in the United States and Canada. It also saw success in the United Kingdom with a total box office gross in excess of £12 million. The film's total worldwide takings totaled over $67 million.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 63% based on 51 reviews, with the consensus reading "Despite the gimmicky feel of the split narratives, the movie is watchable due to the winning performances by the cast". Metacritic gives the film a score of 59 out of 100 based on 23 reviews, indicating the reaction as "mixed or average".
Time Out described the film as "essentially a romantic comedy with a nifty gimmick". Angie Errigo of Empire gave the film 3/5 stars. Roger Ebert gave it 2/4 stars, and was critical of the screenplay.
In popular culture
S8E13 of Frasier, "Sliding Frasiers", is inspired by the film. In it, Frasier has coffee with Roz at Café Nervosa and struggles deciding whether to wear a suit or a sweater to an upcoming Valentine's Day speed dating event. The aftereffects of either decision are explored, although the episode ends identically with both timelines intersecting as Frasier, having failed to get a date, drives to a caller's workplace to woo her.
Taylor Jenkins Reid's 2015 novel Maybe in Another Life was also inspired by the film. Hannah visits a bar with her friend Gabby only to run into an ex-boyfriend she had in high school, Ethan. Gabby wants to leave and asks Hannah if she'd like to go as well, while Ethan offers to drive her home later if she wants to stay longer. The resulting events are alternated throughout the novel, leading to vastly different outcomes of her life depending on who she decides to leave with that night.
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season 4 episode "Sliding Van Doors" centers on the film, showing an alternate timeline where Kimmy Schmidt does not get in her kidnapper's van in 1998 because she does not want to miss a screening of Sliding Doors. In a later flashforward, Titus Andromedon is shown starring in a fake sequel titled "Sliding Doors 2: Tokyo Doors." 
- Howitt, Peter (21 May 1998). Sliding Doors. ScreenPress Books. p. 112. ISBN 978-1901680133. (screenplay)
- "Sliding Doors (1998)". Box Office Mojo. Amazon.com. Retrieved 2010-06-16.
- Klady, Leonard (January 25, 1999). "The Top 125 Worldwide". Variety. p. 36.
- Sorcinelli, Gino (October 18, 2016). "The 45 King Recorded Dido's "Thank You" For Eminem's "Stan" Off Of His TV". Medium. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
- Sliding Doors at Box Office Mojo
- Sliding Doors at Rotten Tomatoes
- Sliding Doors at Metacritic
- quoted in Time Out Film Guide: 17, 2008, p981
- Errigo, Angie (January 1, 2000). "Sliding Doors reviews". Empire. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
- Ebert, Roger (April 24, 1998). "Sliding Doors". The Chicago Sun-Times.
- Upadhyaya, Kayla Kumari (January 26, 2019). "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt imagines life without the bunker". The A.V. Club.