Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, this haunting tale of twisted obsession also comes alarmingly close to being arty and soporific. For avoiding that abyss, director Jonathan Nossiter, who wrote the script with James Lasdun, owes a debt of thanks to David Suchet and Lisa Harrow, who give exceptional performances. Suchet, the star of TV's Poirot, plays Oliver, an out-of-shape IBM accountant who is also out of a job, a home and a wife, and reduced to living at a homeless shelter in Queens, N.Y. Harrow plays Madeleine, a British actress who is not finding much satisfying work in New York, where she moved to be with her now estranged husband, Ben (Larry Pine).
The action revolves around one wintry Sunday when Madeleine encounters Oliver on a walk and mistakes him for film director Matthew Delacorta. She invites him home, and a series of mind games ensues involving identity, sex and violence. Nossiter evokes Vertigo with character names from that Hitchcock masterwork — Madeleine, Judy, Scottie, Elster, Johnnie O — but he's out of his league. It's Suchet and Harrow, exploring the wellsprings of loneliness, who provide the real glimmers of grace.