After forty years of marriage, Alfie leaves his wife Helena to pursue a younger lifestyle and a younger woman. Meanwhile, their daughter Sally longs to start a family but is having marital problems with her husband, struggling writer Greg. Each of the four encounters new people, which leads to trouble…
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger lacks the charm of some of Allen’s earlier efforts, such as Manhattan Murder Mystery. Nevertheless, the film is still amusing and engaging. Characters are well written, if not always likeable, and the incidents that occur offer humour as well as contemplation.
Allen centres the action on a family, and their liaisons with others. It is very much an ensemble piece, with the four main characters wrangling for screen time with the assorted extras. Some of these side characters appear a little one dimensional, but add comedy and drama to proceedings.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is not as witty as some of Woody Allen’s best scripts. Humour is present however, and it is mostly generated through Helena and the minor characters. There is no distinct Woody Allen character, such as Boris in Whatever Works. Instead, a number of the characters take on the writer-director’s typical neuroses. Most prominent of these is Helena, who likes a drink and appears highly-strung. Elsewhere, Roy is the writer struggling with self-confidence, and attracted to a beautiful young woman. It is perhaps because of this absence of the singular recognisable Allen archetype that the film fails to enamour in the same way as the filmmaker’s best films. It is this character type that often brings the wit, which would explain why You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is not as consistently funny as you would hope.
Allen’s other London-based movies have not been that well received. However, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger fares better than the previous movies set in the city. The film paints a fairly romanticised picture of London; the locations featured are in the more attractive areas of the city. This is not unexpected as gritty realism is not something Allen is known for.
Performances from the cast are excellent overall, and the casting is spot on. Gemma Jones as Helena stands out in particular, while Naomi Watts is convincing as Sally. Lucy Punch is suitably over the top as Charmaine.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is an enjoyable movie, which is underscored by a layer of quiet contemplation. It is definitely worth a watch, even if it is not the film Woody Allen fans were hoping for.