Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Peter Howitt|
|Produced by||Sydney Pollack|
|Written by||Peter Howitt|
|Music by||David Hirschfelder|
|Edited by||John Smith|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films (US theatrical)|
Paramount Pictures (International, US home video)
|Box office||$58 million|
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 she catches a train, and causing different outcomes in her life.
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 and misses it. The plot then splits into two storylines, presented as parallel universes, in which different events ensue, consequent upon whether or not she catches a particular train.
In the timeline 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 in time to catch her boyfriend, Gerry (John Lynch), in bed with his American ex-girlfriend, Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn). Helen dumps 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. 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 van.
In the timeline in which Helen misses the train, subsequent services are delayed; 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, makes increasingly aggressive attempts to torment Helen and dropping clues of their affair to her. 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 the 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 hospital and loses her baby. In the timeline where she originally boarded the train, she dies in the arms of her new-found love, James, right after he says he will make her very happy; in the timeline in which she missed it, she recovers and tells Gerry to leave for good.
In the final scene (taking place in the "missed train" timeline), James leaves the hospital after visiting his mother, and Helen leaves after ending her relationship with Gerry. They meet in the lift, and Helen drops an earring which is picked up by James, as in their first encounter at the beginning of the film. Before the lift doors close, James tells Helen to cheer up and repeats his line: "You know what the Monty Python boys say..." Helen (who, in the "boarded the train" timeline, had assumed the rejoinder to be "always look on the bright side of life") says, "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition." The frame freezes as she and James stare at one another.
- 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
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 at Trinity Buoy Wharf. 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. The explicit dual timelines in this film mirror a similar if less emphasised split storyline in a 1949 film predecessor 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 – "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.
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.
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. It also saw success in the United Kingdom with a total box office gross in excess of £12 million. The film's total world takings totaled over $58 million.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 63% based on 48 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 magazine gives the film 3/5 stars. Roger Ebert gives the film 2/4 stars, and was critical of the screenplay.
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".
In popular culture
- The third season of Veronica's Closet contains an episode inspired by the film and titled "Veronica's Sliding Doors", which aired in 1999.
- In a season-2 episode of HBO's The Sopranos, aired in 2000, the protagonist Tony Soprano mentions watching a movie with Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow in one of his therapy sessions with Dr. Jennifer Melfi. Melfi erroneously thinks he is referring to Sliding Doors, but Tony explains that the motion picture was in fact Seven.
- The 13th episode of the 8th season of Frasier, aired in 2001 and titled "Sliding Frasiers", uses the film's same central idea of diverging timelines that merge at the end.
- The movie is discussed in the 2013 science-fiction thriller Coherence.
- The first episode of the fourth season of Broad City, aired in 2017 and titled "Sliding Doors", is based on the film, examining the lives of the two main characters if they had missed a subway train.
- The second season of American Housewife has an episode called "Sliding Sweaters", aired in 2018 and based on the same gimmick.
- 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.
- "Sliding Doors – Box Office Data, DVD Sales, Movie News, Cast Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 2013-09-20.
- 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
- "Angie Errigo". Empireonline.com. Retrieved 2013-09-20.
- Roger Ebert (April 24, 1998). "Sliding Doors".
- Interview contained on the Region 1 and 2 DVD edition of Blind Chance. The quote is taken from the subtitles.
- Jaffe, Jenny. "Broad City Season-Premiere Recap: When Abbi Met Ilana". Vulture. Retrieved 2017-11-06.