The morning commute sees an argument break out over a seat between two strangers. But soon they begin talking and Sally Thorn (Sheridan Smith) and Carl Matthews’ (David Morrissey) journey becomes a lot more interesting. Both are already in relationships yet are increasingly drawn together. As their friendship grows into flirtation, they refuse to admit that a line might have been crossed, soon to discover the consequences will be life-changing, and perhaps, catastrophic for both. Yet the heart wants what the heart wants.
After the global success of the film One Day (starring Anne Hathaway), author David Nicholls turned his attention to writing another romantic drama. The 7:39 was originally a two part television film that now is combined to allow the story to run as one feature film. Nicholls knows how to write outstanding romantic literature, so it’s easy to see why he was asked to produced a film from that genre.
In keeping with the British aesthetic of the stiff upper lip, the opening shows how little we talk to our fellow neighbours/commuters and yet if we did, things could be very different. Of course, film and television do paint a very glossy picture of how easy it could be for some to just instantly fall in love with the person next to them (We are more of the persuasion of keeping our head down and listening to our music!).
The story builds over a time frame that shows their flirtation period and beyond, and then we see the outcome after both parties have returned to their respective others to mention what fools they have become due to their dalliance. In fact the second half of the film is rather more interesting and steeped in real-life. It’s pleasing to see a drama actually show what happens after adultery is committed and how different people cope with it in their own way.
Olivia Coleman plays Carl’s wife and she has some perfect moments to go crazy, yet she deals with it in her own way and gives hope that there is an answer beyond the end of a relationship. The first half of the film may set the story and show how lust overcomes love, yet it’s a blatantly homage to David Lean’s wonderful Brief Encounter. So much so that it feels to be treading virtually the same water regardless of time frame.
David Morrissey may have the moves and some smooth talking, but he never gets out of second gear. This is mainly down to the story being a direct line with no room to really set his own stamp on proceedings. Sheridan Smith is fast becoming an all round versatile actress, and whilst this doesn’t see her talents stretch too far, she easy manages to charm with her eloquent face and wonderful smile and we fell for her charm and grace.
The 7:39 doesn’t offer anything new, and in fact, retreads a very familiar film path already. Yet the performances from Smith, Morrissey and Coleman all deserve recognition. If only it had been more of an original piece then the film could have stood more on its own.