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Sliding Doors is a 1998 film written and directed by Peter Howitt. It starred Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah, and featured John Lynch, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Virginia McKenna. The original music score was composed by David Hirschfelder.


The film follows the life of Helen Quilley (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is fired from her public relations job. The film's plot splits into two parallel universe which run in tandem. In one universe, Helen manages to catch a London Underground train home on time, and in the other she misses it.

In the first scenario, she meets a man named James (John Hannah) on the underground, where he engages in discussion with her, including references to pop culture icons like the Beatles and Monty Python. She then gets home in time to catch her boyfriend Gerry (John Lynch) red-handed with his ex-girlfriend Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn); she promptly dumps him and moves in with her best friend Anna (Zara Turner). James continues to pop into Helen's life, cheering her up and encouraging her to start her own public relations company. The two of them quickly fall in love despite Helen's reservations about starting another relationship so soon.

In the second scenario, she misses the train and tries to catch a cab. While hailing a taxi, a man tries to snatch her handbag, leading Helen to hit her head in the scuffle and go to hospital. She arrives home late, giving Lydia time to leave. Helen carries on oblivious, working several part-time jobs to pay the bills. Meanwhile, Gerry tries to cover up his infidelity and deal with two women and Lydia interacts with Helen on several occasions. Helen discovers she's pregnant with Gerry's baby, but cannot find the time to tell him.

In the first timeline, Helen discovers she's pregnant with James's child and goes to see him at his office. She is stunned to learn from James's secretary that he is married. Upset, Helen disappears. James searches for her and finds her on a bridge, explaining he was married but is now separated and soon to be divorced. He and his soon-to-be ex-wife maintain a cordial relationship for the sake of his sick mother.

In the second timeline, Helen tells Gerry she has a job interview with the head of an international PR firm. Thinking Helen is out at the interview, Gerry goes to see Lydia, who is also pregnant with his child. While there, the doorbell rings and Lydia tells Gerry to answer it. Helen is there, and is stunned when Lydia tells her she can't do the interview because she's "deciding whether or not to keep [Helen's] boyfriend's baby."

In both timelines, she is involved in an accident, goes to hospital and loses her baby. In the first scenario (in which she catches the train), she dies in the arms of her new-found love. In the second, Helen recovers (still apparently oblivious to her dual timeline) in the hospital and tells Gerry to leave her alone for good. Before waking up, she sees flashes of the other Helen's life.

In the final scene (which takes place in the second timeline), James is leaving the hospital after visiting his mother, and Helen is also leaving after ending her relationship with Gerry permanently. Helen drops an earring in the elevator and it is picked up by James. This event mirrors the start of the film, where James picks up Helen's earring on the elevator shortly after Helen is fired from her PR job. Before the elevator doors close, James tells Helen to cheer up, and repeats his line, "You know what the Monty Python boys say..." Helen (who, in the beginning of the film, assumed the rejoinder to be "Always look on the bright side of life.") turns to James and says, "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition." She and James stare at one another (both apparently surprised by her response) as the elevator doors close, leaving the audience to speculate on the outcome.


The scenes on the London Underground were filmed at Waterloo stationmarker on the Waterloo & City Line and at Fulham Broadway tube stationmarker on the District Line. The scenes by the river were filmed next to Hammersmith Bridgemarker and in the Blue Anchor pub in Hammersmith. The bridge featured is Albert Bridge (between Battersea and Chelsea). The late-night scene when Paltrow and Hannah are walking down the street chatting was filmed on Primrose Gardens (formerly Stanley Gardens) in Belsize Parkmarker.

Selected cast


  1. Aimee Mann - "Amateur"
  2. Elton John - "Benny and the Jets"
  3. Dido - "Thank You"
  4. Aqua - "Turn Back Time"
  5. Jamiroquai - "Use the Force"
  6. Abra Moore - "Don't Feel Like Cryin'"
  7. Peach Union - "On My Own"
  8. Olive - "Miracle"
  9. Dodgy - "Good Enough"
  10. Blair - "Have Fun, Go Mad"
  11. Andre Barreau - "Got a Thing About You"
  12. Andre Barreau - "Call Me a Fool"

Britishmarker singer Dido's song "Thank You" made its first appearance on the Sliding Doors soundtrack, although it became a hit three years later. It was a commercial for this movie featuring "Thank You" as background music that inspired rapper Eminem to use Dido's voice for his song, "Stan".


Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes rated the film as 63% "fresh", based on 48 reviews, with a synopsis saying that "[d]espite the gimmicky feel of the split narratives, the movie is watch-able due to the winning performances by the cast". Metacritic described reaction as "mixed or average", with a score of 59% favourable, based on 23 reviews. Time Out described the film as "essentially a romantic comedy with a nifty gimmick". The film director Agnieszka Holland considers the film to be a botched copy of the Polish film Blind Chance (1981) with all the "philosophical depths and stylistic subtleties stripped away".


  3. quoted in Time Out Film Guide: 17, 2008, p981
  4. Interview contained on the Region 1 and 2 DVD edition of Blind Chance. The quote is taken from the subtitles.

See also

Films with a similar premise

External links

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