Sliding Doors follows the life of Helen Quilley (Gwyneth Paltrow), after she is fired from her public relations job, and on the way home she catches a train. However, this is where the film splits into a separate parallel universe in which she missed the train. The remainder of the film jumps between her two lives as in one she comes home early and catches her boyfriend Gerry (John Lynch) cheating on her with his ex-girlfriend Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn). In the other she misses the train and arrives home late remaining blissfully unaware of her boyfriend’s infidelity.
In one universe Helen dumps her cheating boyfriend, move out, and meets James. In the other Helen is forced to work a waitress job she hates to support her writer-boyfriend who is unemployed. On occasion one of the two Helens seems to almost be almost aware of the other and has several déjà vu moments; the audience is also not entirely sure which the ‘primary’ universe is until the closing seconds of the film.
A Brilliant Concept
Sliding Doors has such a great premise that it is impossible to not be drawn in. It makes the audience wonder what if…there are any number of times when people have wondered how their life would change if something had happened differently. The brilliance of Sliding Doors is that the decision that causes two such different outcomes is out of Helen’s control. She is coming down the stairs and a child gets in her way causing her to miss the train, in the other life, the child gets out of her way and she catches the train.
Director Peter Howitt expertly flips between the two lives, and as the film develops the lives of the two Helens become increasingly different. Howitt draws inspiration from the 1981 Polish Film Blind Chance in which the main charcter’s life separates into 3 different outcomes.
James (John Hannah) is a charming and friendly man that Helen meets after she discovers that Gerry was cheating on her.
Inspiration For A Thousand Copies
The idea of a life splitting has been parodied so many times, the cast all play their respective parts with John Hannah being effortlessly charming. However it is not really the story itself that is inspiring, it is the idea behind it. In the end the two different lives seem to meet one another and leave the audience wondering if fate does exist.