FILM: Matthew Chapman’s The Ledge


Presented by IFC Films, writer and director Matthew Chapman brings audiences The Ledge, a 2011 film starring Charlie Hunnam (as Gavin), Liv Tyler (as Shana), Patrick Wilson (as Joe), and Terrence Howard (as Hollis).

This film tells the story of Gavin, an arrogant playboy who starts to fall for the one woman he can’t have, his married neighbor/co-worker Shana. Contributing to Gavin’s desire is his dislike for Shana’s strict Christian husband Joe, who is forthright in his opinions on the inferiority of homosexuals (Gavin’s roommate), women (Shana) and non-believers (Gavin).

Eventually Gavin and Shana have an affair, Joe finds out, and due to his strict beliefs, Joe gives Gavin an ultimatum: Sacrifice his own life (and confront his lack of beliefs) by jumping from a building, or be inadvertently responsible and guilty for Shana’s death (her sin being infidelity). The majority of the film takes place on the ledge itself, where policeman Hollis tries to talk Gavin down while Gavin explains to Hollis (and the audience) how he ended up in this predicament.

While this film tells a story of love and temptation, ultimately its backbone lies in faith, namely, if someone doesn’t believe in God, nor the promise of an afterlife, would they sacrifice themselves for the person they love, if indeed this relationship is the highest form of love possible? Or would they cower in the face of death when they realize that their life has been empty without the belief in a higher power?

Credit must be given to Chapman for tackling a significant yet debatable concept that perhaps will always plague human beings. Amid details such as the use of the bible’s Leviticus 20:13, or the placing of apples on the table between Gavin and Joe during their debate, Chapman persuades viewers to confront their own beliefs. Yet I feel Chapman’s underlying message was unfortunately lost on most viewers, that both characters were equally strong in their beliefs, and thus the audience is not asked to choose a side of religion or atheism, right or wrong, but rather if a person is stronger for sticking with their convictions in the face of opposition, or changing in the midst of them. This especially comes into perspective with Gavin’s character.

Wilson was well-cast as extreme fundamentalist Joe, and it was refreshing to see Tyler back on the big screen again. Composer Nathan Barr contributed the haunting score, while the story also shares a similar plot to Stephen King’s short story of the same name, although I’m not sure if that was intended.

Overall, Chapman created a unique film which deserves to be discussed among audiences. Do not watch this film expecting visual fireworks, but do expect some sparks to ignite in your mind post-viewing.

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