METROLAND is a story about a married man in middle-class England faced with a choice to stay with his family or live the hedonistic, career-oriented life of his best friend, who suddenly comes calling after several years. Although the movie favors the moral lifestyle of family life over the pagan friend's reprobate life, it does feature some implied and depicted sexual scenes between married and unmarried couples.
A thought-provoking movie, Philip Saville’s METROLAND takes place mostly in 1977 England, although it could actually take place today in any location in developed countries. The movie contrasts two friends who have gone in different directions within the last 10 years. It brings up questions of commitment, freedom, responsibility, family, contentment, and entrapment, to name but a few.
Chris and Marion, played by Christian Bale and Emily Watson, respectively, have been married for eight years and appear content, but lack excitement as they go about their daily routines. Marion takes care of their baby girl while Chris wears a suit and takes the train every day to work in an office.
Chris and Marion’s tranquil family life becomes disrupted when Toni, Chris’ best friend whom he has not seen in a long time, comes calling. Toni is a rebellious, unsuccessful writer who gives in to all his fleshly desires without thinking about any consequences. He tries to get Chris to realize that he is trapped in his “boring” middle-class lifestyle. Reuniting with Toni triggers many memories for Chris when he and Toni were younger and Chris was more wild. Chris had been an aspiring photographer but had come to the realization that he would not be able to make a living with it and has now put that dream on the back burner of his life. Toni accuses Chris of selling out.
Faced with Toni’s criticisms, Chris must now tackle his memories and decide what he really wants out of life. Does he want to live like Toni, going after whatever, and whoever, he wants at the moment, living on the edge? Or, does he honestly love the life he has with Marion and his child, a committed family relationship? Has he really sold out? Or, has he just grown up?
METROLAND is an interesting movie whose themes can be universally understood and that raises issues that are relevant today. It is candid in its exploration of sexual promiscuity, drinking and lack of commitment in Toni’s life and the past life of Chris. Toni represents the temptation of giving into these things, and Chris represents the human struggle to fight against them. Although he is stable and content, Christ still must fight against what appears to be more exciting.
The casting is wonderful in this movie, as all the actors put in fine performances. Emily Watson, while not having a major role, still has a strong presence in the movie. METROLAND does not patronize her character, a suburban housewife who is actually the wisest person in the movie. Watson’s Marion is more mature than Bale’s Chris and can see through him and Toni, as well as herself.
Director Philip Saville effectively uses many flashbacks to build the past of the characters. Even though some of the flashbacks are quite long, viewers probably will never be confused as to where they are in the film. The character of Annick, Chris’ former French girlfriend played by Elsa Zylberstein, is particularly well developed during the flashbacks.
METROLAND contains quite a few sexual scenes. Still, they do fulfill a purpose in delineating the message of the movie and do not seem overly gratuitous. It was refreshing to see that, in the rest of the movie, commitment and morality were still valued. The movie clearly demonstrates the fact that Chris must make a choice. To its credit, METROLAND presents Toni as irresponsible and ultimately jealous of Chris and Marion’s life, and makes moral viewers cheer for Chris to stay with his family. Interestingly enough, the movie emphasizes the importance of the company that people surround themselves with and how easily they can be influenced by their friends. It is also honest about the fact that total satisfaction in married life, though a worthy goal, is probably impossible to attain. All of that being said, this is definitely a film for the very few who would not be swayed or uncomfortable by the explicit sexual content.
Moral worldview favored over pagan lifestyle, but no involvement of God or prayer; 11 obscenities & 3 profanities; one violent fight scene between two main characters; several implied & depicted sexual scenes between married & unmarried couples plus adulterous kiss leading to nude bedroom scene that is interrupted & condom use; upper female & nearly total female nudity plus rear & upper male nudity; drinking & smoking shown throughout movie but not to excess; and, hedonism, rebellion & sexual promiscuity advocated but eventually rebuked.