The basic story of Metroland has some potential, but it’s handled in a bland, clichéd, by-the-book way. For most of the movies I’ve written about so far that I would rate as below average, I either didn’t understand significant parts of them, or was bored and not really paying attention to significant parts of them, or both. I wouldn’t say either of those things was true of this movie, yet I’d still rate it as below average. There’s too little substance, and it’s too predictable.
Metroland is a British movie about a young married man with a young daughter. Much of the movie takes place in a flashback to about a decade earlier when he had been something of a rebel living in Paris, engaged in a passionate romance with a hot Parisian girl, living a bohemian, artist’s (he’s a photographer) lifestyle. He lost the girl due to her being uncomfortable with his growing fondness for a British girl (Emily Watson), who intrigues him with her cocky, edgy, somewhat domineering style. They marry, and he settles into a very conventional, suburban lifestyle as a family man.
Now they are visited by his best friend of his younger years, who still lives the lifestyle they both did back then, and chides his friend for selling out. His marriage is not in great shape, in part because he keeps comparing it with his old life and the Parisian girlfriend, and wondering if he made the wrong choice.
Well, duh. The Parisian girl blows away his wife—and the vast majority of the human race—in looks. And she doesn’t have the negatives that sometimes accompany such hotness. She’s not a shallow bimbo who just wants to party all the time and would get boring quickly. She’s not bitchy and high maintenance. She’s affectionate, good-natured, uninhibited, and at least reasonably intelligent. That’s pretty awesome girlfriend material.
The one red flag is the way she dumps him so quickly and definitely over such a subtle “wrong” as having a female friend—he informs her of it, and within seconds she simply walks out the door and never comes back. That smacks of an unstable emotionalism. But still, come on. Of course you’re going to regret not having been able to hold onto her and live the life of an artist in Paris, compared to being hen-pecked by a sometimes unpleasant wife who’s restructured your life to fit her preferred version of conventionality. I’m with his friend.
There are various flirtations and real and potential sexual situations involving the main guy, the wife, the friend, and sometimes other parties, but in the end he decides (or his wife decides for him) that he actually likes his life and that his friend is just jealous because he hasn’t similarly settled down to a “normal” life. So he makes peace with his situation and stops obsessing over the past and what might have been.
As I’ve made clear, I don’t think much of his decisions or his (lack of) capacity to stand up to his wife. The wife herself is not a complete shrew, but is not all that appealing a person. The friend is somewhat more to my liking, but really he’s a one-dimensional character who just exists to utter platitudes about selling out and such, so as to represent “the road not taken” in the main character’s life.
The problem is I just don’t think there’s much more to Metroland than this summation. It’s not like there’s a lot of nuance, and sharp dialogue, and character development beyond the minimum necessary for the main plot. To me, the movie isn’t saying much more—or saying it more interestingly—than my bare description of it. The guy has an early mid-life crisis, but realizes in the end he likes the conventional, suburban life. That’s about it.
Just too thin for me to rate it highly at all.