Gavin (Charlie Hunnam, Cold Mountain) is on the ledge. Hollis (Terrence Howard, Crash), who just learned that he is not the biological father of his children, is tasked with talking Gavin down. Their conversation eventually reveals Gavin s deep-rooted conflict with his fundamentalist Christian neighbor Joe (Patrick Wilson, Watchmen), whose theological opposition to Gavin was intensified by Gavin s gay roommate and later by Joe s wife's infidelity. The negotiations take a drastic turn when Hollis learns that Gavin has a deadline, and his life is not the only one hanging in the balance. Writer/director Matthew Chapman (Runaway Jury) returns after a long hiatus to helm this unpredictable thriller that asks challenging questions about faith and reason; the nature of belief; and the value of human life.
There are lots of big issues being tossed around in the relatively small confines of The Ledge
, an ambitious indie production with a stagy quality that feels as though it could have been adapted from a play. The problems confronting the film's ensemble cast concern the Christian fundamentalist clash with homosexuality, adultery, atheism, and pretty much every other social issue on the mainstream liberal agenda. Gavin (Charlie Hunnam) is an easygoing hotel manager who hires then starts an affair with Shana (Liv Tyler), the wife of Joe (Patrick Wilson), a staunch Christian conservative who lives in his apartment building. Gavin's roommate Chris (Christopher Gorham) is gay and HIV positive, and Joe immediately assumes them to be a couple doomed to hell unless he convinces them to turn to God for salvation. The relationship among all these characters does not begin well and goes quickly downhill. To the film's credit, Gavin is portrayed as being as intolerant of Joe's beliefs as Joe is narrow-minded and unwavering in his own convictions about right and wrong. Neither Gavin nor Joe is portrayed as the good guy, and Shana is sort of caught in the middle. She owes a moral debt to her husband, but has a free-spirited soul that's been repressed by his dogma and is now being reawakened by Gavin's heart (and hunky good looks). It's no surprise that Joe discovers the affair, which is where the titular setting comes into play--a narrow cornice on a downtown building where Gavin must stand in penance for several hours before making a literal leap of faith. The ledge is where the movie begins and ends, with all the exposition in the middle coming thanks to the character of Hollis (Terrence Howard), a cop tasked with talking Gavin down. Gavin starts by telling Hollis that he doesn't want to jump, but he has to at the stroke of noon in order to save the life of someone else. In addition to the above chain of events, there's also plenty of secret pain in the characters' pasts that we learn about as Gavin stands prone on his precipice. That includes Hollis, whose own day started with the shocking news that he isn't the father of the children he thought were his. Several times he takes a break from hearing about Gavin's emotional turmoil to deal with his own by talking to his wife, a slightly implausible scenario that breaks up the movie's pace the same way its frequent shifts in narrative structure do. It's this somewhat contrived construction, combined with the weighty themes that are often too dramatically overwrought, that gives The Ledge
its stagy, unrealistic tone. But the performances are all first-rate and the atmosphere sufficiently grave to make this a thought-provoking inquiry into matters that float around long after the ledge is left empty. --Ted Fry