Having been fired from her job at a PR company, Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow) runs to catch an underground train. Two storylines then unfold: in the first, Helen catches her train, meeting the charming James (John Hannah). Upon arriving home, Helen discovers her boyfriend Gerry (John Lynch) having an affair. She leaves Gerry and begins seeing James. Their relationship is placed in jeopardy, however, when Helen realizes that she is pregnant. In the second storyline, having missed her train Helen does not meet James and arrives home too late to catch Gerry. Gerry continues his affair with former girlfriend Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn), even when Helen becomes pregnant with his child.
Nice concept, shaky execution--that about sums up the mixed blessings of British actor Peter Howitt's intelligent but forgivably flawed debut as a writer-director. It's got more emotional depth than most frothy romantic comedies and its central idea--the parallel tracking of two possible destinies for a young London professional played by Gwyneth Paltrow--is full of involving possibilities. It's essentially a what-if scenario with Helen (Paltrow) at the centre of two slightly but significantly different romantic trajectories, one involving her two-timing boyfriend (John Lynch)and the other with an amiable chap (John Hannah) who represents a happier outcome. That's the film's basic problem, however: the two scenarios are so romantically unbalanced (one guy's a total cad, the other charmingly sincere) that Helen inadvertently comes off looking foolish and needlessly confused. Still, this remains a pleasant experiment and Howitt's dialogue is witty enough to keep things entertaining. It's also a treat for Paltrow fans; not only does the svelte actress handle a British accent without embarrassing herself but she gets to play two subtle variations of the same character, sporting different wardrobes and hairstyles in a role that plays into her glamorous off-screen persona. --Jeff Shannon
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