Young Helen is fired from her job at a PR company, and when the sliding doors of the tube car close on her, we start to see what would have happened if she’d made the train, and if she hadn’t.
Helen’s story splits into a parallel universe “this or that” narrative when she makes the train and finds her boyfriend shagging his old girlfriend, or, alternatively, misses the train and gets mugged on her way home (giving The Other Woman time to sneak out). If you ever wanted to hear Gwyneth Paltrow do a British accent, or just want to go back to a time when you liked her before she became the insufferable Goop, this is the movie for you.
Gwyneth Paltrow as Helen
Gwyneth is perfect as the newly fired Helen who’s suddenly knocked down a peg or two and has to reevaluate her entire life. This is really the most I have ever enjoyed Paltrow. She does some delightful British swearing, which, incidentally, introduced eleven-year-old me to the wonders of the words “wanker” and “bollocks”.
John Hannah as James
James is a man on the train Helen meets in one timeline (two guesses as to which), and John is oh-so-charming and oh-so-Scottish in this role. He’s best known to me for, well, this movie and The Mummy, where he played the bumbling brother of Rachel Weisz, but his filmography is quite extensive. Most recently he’s been in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and looks like he’ll be in the remake of Overboard, which no one asked for. #stopunnecessaryremakes
Jeanne Tripplehorn as Lydia
Because this was the only thing I knew Jeanne from when I was younger, I had an irrational dislike of her, as she is quite shameless and bitchy as Lydia. But after seeing her in Big Love, I have a new respect for her. Side note: I just got really confused looking at her IMDB page because I could have sworn she was on the TV show Once and Again, but apparently that is Sela Ward. Oops! In my defense, they do look very similar!
John Lynch as Jerry
Jerry is Helen’s weasel boyfriend and John Lynch plays him perfectly because I can’t stand his face in this movie. I thought I hadn’t seen him in anything else, but apparently he is in The Fall with Jamie Dornan and Gillian Anderson. Hmm.
Couch-Sharing Capability: High
Feel free to watch this with your girlfriends so you can all speculate which storyline is better and discuss what you would do to your boyfriend should you find him cheating on you. Or it’s also a good movie to watch alone if you feel like rewatching it for the zillionth time and muttering along with Gwyneth as she grumbles, “Bollocks to him, bollocks to him” like me.
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Low
Because there are split stories happening at the same time, you may get confused if you imbibe too deeply. Gwynnie helpfully cuts her hair for one storyline so you can tell them apart, but everyone else looks the same. I’d crack open a bottle of wine and drink a glass or two, but leave it at that.
Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Excellent
If you couldn’t already tell, I’ve watched this movie multiple times over the last almost twenty years: I stumbled upon it in the middle of the night back when we had a free trial of Showtime and sat in the basement so my parents wouldn’t know I was watching grown-up movies. It’s the perfect late ‘90s “chick flick” that they just don’t seem to make anymore (instead we’re getting schlock like Fun Mom Dinner—what the effing what, Hollywood?) but it’s got a lot of heart and humor and the adorable John Hannah. If you’re not sure you can get past your dislike of Paltrow to watch this, then just pretend that this is Gwyneth’s estranged British twin sister and all will be well.