Sliding Doors

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Sliding Doors
A vertical mirror image of a woman, above she has short blonde hair, below she has longer brown hair.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Peter Howitt
Produced by Sydney Pollack
Philippa Braithwaite
Written by Peter Howitt
Starring Gwyneth Paltrow
John Hannah
Music by David Hirschfelder
Cinematography Remi Adefarasin
Edited by John Smith
Distributed by Miramax Films (USA theatrical)
Paramount Pictures (International, USA home video)
Release dates
  • April 24, 1998 (1998-04-24) (US)
  • May 1, 1998 (1998-05-01) (UK)
Running time
99 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $6 million[1]
Box office $58 million[2]

Sliding Doors is a 1998 British-American 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 parallel universes, based on the two paths the central character's life could take depending on whether or not she catches a train and causing different outcomes in her life.


Helen Quilley (Gwyneth Paltrow) gets fired from her public relations job. She rushes for her train on the London Underground and misses it. The plot then splits into two parallel universes, the other detailing the separate path her life would have taken had she caught that train.

In the timeline in which she boards the train, she meets James (John Hannah) on the underground and they strike up a conversation. She gets home in time to catch her boyfriend, Gerry (John Lynch), in bed with his American ex-girlfriend, Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn); she dumps him and moves in with her friend Anna (Zara Turner), and changes her appearance for 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 Helen's 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, and goes to see him at his office. She is stunned to learn from James' secretary that he is married. Upset, she disappears. James finds her on a bridge and explains that he was married but is now separated and planning a divorce. He and his soon-to-be-ex-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 car.

In the timeline in which she misses the train, she hails a taxi instead but a man tries to snatch her handbag. Helen is injured in the scuffle and goes to hospital. She arrives home after Lydia has left and carries on, oblivious of Gerry's infidelity, and takes two part-time jobs to pay the bills. Gerry conceals his infidelity and juggles the two women in his life; Lydia even interacts with Helen on several occasions. Helen has a number of conflicts with Gerry but discovers that she is pregnant. She never manages to tell him, but does tell him that she has a job interview with an international PR firm. Gerry, thinking Helen is at her interview, goes to see Lydia, who is also pregnant with his child, at her apartment. While at Lydia's, Gerry answers the doorbell and sees Helen standing at the door; she is stunned to see Gerry, while Lydia tells her she can't do the interview because she's "deciding whether or not to keep your boyfriend's baby." Distraught, Helen runs off and falls down Lydia's staircase while trying to flee Gerry.

In both timelines, Helen goes to the hospital and loses her baby. In the timeline in which she boards the train, she dies in the arms of her new-found love, James; in the timeline in which she misses the train, she recovers and tells Gerry to leave for good. Before waking, she sees brief visions of the alternate Helen's life in a dream.

In the final scene (now taking place in the original "missed train" universe), James is leaving the hospital after visiting his mother, and Helen is leaving after ending her relationship with Gerry. Helen drops an earring in the lift and it is picked up by James. This mirrors the start of the film, where James picks up Helen's earring on the lift after Helen is fired from her job. Before the doors close, James tells Helen to cheer up, and repeats his line, "You know what the Monty Python boys say..." Helen (who, in the beginning of the film, assumed the rejoinder to be "always look on the bright side of life.") says, "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition". She and James stare at one another, each surprised by her response. The lift doors close, leaving the audience to speculate whether it was fate or coincidence that brought Helen and James together under these circumstances.



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. 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.


  1. Aimee Mann - "Amateur"
  2. Elton John - "Bennie and the Jets"
  3. Dido - "Thank You"
  4. Aqua - "Turn Back Time"
  5. Jamiroquai - "Use the Force"
  6. Abra Moore - "Don't Feel Like Cryin'"
  7. Peach - "On My Own"
  8. Olive - "Miracle"
  9. Dodgy - "Good Enough"
  10. Blair - "Have Fun, Go Mad"
  11. Andre Barreau - "Got a Thing About You"
  12. 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".[citation needed]

This soundtrack is notable as the last from a Paramount film to be released by MCA Records, which, as successor to Paramount's former record division, continued to release soundtracks for some Paramount films starting in 1979. In 2003, when Geffen Records absorbed MCA and became another successor to the former record division of Paramount, it began to share the duty of issuing Paramount film soundtracks with sister labels Interscope and A&M.

An important omission from the soundtrack is the Patty Larkin cover of "Tenderness on the Block" that plays during the final scene. Due to copyright and recording issues, this track was never released and is only available in the movie.


Box office[edit]

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.[3] It also saw success in the United Kingdom with a total box office gross in excess of £12 million.[4] The film's total world takings totaled over $58 million.[2]

Critical response[edit]

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film the film a score of 63% based on 48 reviews, with the site's consensus saying that "[d]espite the gimmicky feel of the split narratives, the movie is watch-able due to the winning performances by the cast".[5] Metacritic gives the film a score of 59 out of 100 based on 23 reviews, indicating the reaction as "mixed or average".[6]

Time Out described the film as "essentially a romantic comedy with a nifty gimmick".[7] Angie Errigo of Empire magazine gives the film 3/5 stars.[8] Roger Ebert gives the film 2/4 stars, and was critical of the screenplay.[9]

Film director Agnieszka Holland considers the film to be a botched copy of the 1981 Polish film Blind Chance, directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski, with all the "philosophical depths and stylistic subtleties stripped away".[10]

See also[edit]

Media with a similar premise


  1. ^ "Sliding Doors (1998)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-06-16. 
  2. ^ a b "Sliding Doors - Box Office Data, DVD Sales, Movie News, Cast Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 2013-09-20. 
  3. ^ Sliding Doors at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^
  5. ^ Sliding Doors at Rotten Tomatoes
  6. ^ Sliding Doors at Metacritic
  7. ^ quoted in Time Out Film Guide: 17, 2008, p981
  8. ^ "Angie Errigo". Retrieved 2013-09-20. 
  9. ^ Roger Ebert (April 24, 1998). "Sliding Doors". 
  10. ^ Interview contained on the Region 1 and 2 DVD edition of Blind Chance. The quote is taken from the subtitles.

External links[edit]