In his 40th film as director, Woody Allen revisits themes of life, love and mortality that he has examined before; but this time the humor is a bit darker and the characters, perhaps, more desperate.
Helena, played by Gemma Jones, seeks out a psychic fortuneteller to help her understand why Anthony Hopkins as Alfie, her husband of more than 40 years, has left her to take up with a much younger, woman named Charmaine.
Sally is married to Roy, who wrote a hit novel, but has been unable to repeat the success. Their relationship grows tenser by the week and meeting sexy Charmaine doesn't help.
Perhaps Roy is living a bit vicariously through Alfie's romance; struggling to write, he finds himself staring out the window at the pretty young woman in the flat across the way.
As their stories intersect in the London neighborhood where he set the film, writer-director Woody Allen says the characters confront issues he has explored before in more serious films like 1978's "Interiors."
"This film is an attempt to deal with the same subject, but to deal with it in a more comic way," explains Allen. "The subject matter is still the inability of people to relate to one another, people needing some kind of certainty in life, people deluding themselves into some sense that there is some purpose to life or that there is some extra meaning to life when, in fact, it's a meaningless experience …and yet in the end even faith in anything at all is better than no faith at all."
Josh Brolin co-stars as unsuccessful writer Roy who seeks inspiration in the arms of a woman who is not his wife.
"It is not the most redeeming character out there," admits Brolin. "When I watch it I just want to slap him a lot. You know, 'the grass is greener on the other side' and he is constantly looking 'over there' for notoriety and fame and all of that."
Allen says Roy will seem familiar to fans of his movies.
"That's a typical kind of character that I would write: someone who fancies himself an artist and struggles with it and doesn't live up to his promise," Allen says. "I feel that's the autobiographical strain in the movie. I also feel it is autobiographical with Anthony Hopkins. I'm older, probably close to his age, and these problems of a life more in the past than in the future torment me all of the time. That is a problem that recurs in all of my movies …or many of them …since I got older."
Allen turns 75 December 1, making him two years older than co-star Hopkins.
"We have all gone through our mid-life crises. I'm just glad I don't have to do that again, but I understand poor Alfie," Allen says. "He is just caught up in this nightmare, but he makes a big mistake and then everything is taken from him: a marriage is destroyed, his wife is very upset by it. That happens. That's life. People do that and men are dogs. I have to say it: we are a rum lot. Never trust a man."
But writer-director Allen trusts the audience to accept his somewhat unorthodox decision to end the film by not ending its multiple stories.
Left to Right: Naomi Watts, Antonio Banderas and Woody Allen
"I feel that life, unlike Hollywood movies, does not tie up all the loose ends," the director explains. "Life is unresolved, confusing, bewildering, puzzling, ambiguous …and that you don't really know what's going to happen. The future is uncertain for everybody, so that is how I had seen the end of the picture. I didn't want everybody to neatly wrap up his or her story with a nice "MGM" ending. I wanted the people to wander around in agonizing limbo …like in real life, really."
British screen veteran Pauline Collins plays fortuneteller Cristal. You Will Meet A Tall, Dark Stranger also features Naomi Watts as Sally. Antonio Banderas plays her unbearably handsome boss. Freida Pinto is Dia, the object of her husband Roy's desire; and Lucy Punch is her dad's flame Charmaine.