Closer | 2004
Veteran Mike Nichols (who directed The Graduate) adapts Patrick Marber’s stage play about four people thrown together by chance, engaged in sabotaging their own lives by constantly making the wrong choices at precisely the wrong time. There’s a slight spoiler, but if you’re checking the locations I’ll go ahead and assume you’ seen the film.
Obituary writer Dan (Jude Law) bonds with the troubled, pink-haired American ‘Alice’ (Natalie Portman) at the A&E department after she’s knocked down by a cab on the streets of London. The hospital exterior was a then-empty building at 1 Seething Lane, on Seething Lane Garden, EC3, behind the Port of London Authority Building (it’s since been redeveloped to become Addendum restaurant, part of the Apex Hotel). Seething Lane, by the way, was once home to diarist Samuel Pepys.
The hospital is clearly intended to be St Bart’s as, with Dan helpfully pointing out the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral (oh, that’s what it is), the pair stroll along King Edward Street and into the tiny green pocket of Postman’s Park, St Martin’s le Grand, Aldersgate Street and King Edward Street, EC1, which is where they become intrigued by the wall of ceramic tiles commemorating heroic deeds of ordinary folk. In the shadow of the Church of St Botolph without Aldersgate, this little space was the brainchild of Victorian painter and radical socialist GF Watts, who had the idea of celebrating those everyday heroes who died saving the lives of others.
The two share a bus ride along the Thames Embankment to the newspaper office in which Dan works, which turns out to be Trinity Tower in Thomas More Square, off Vaughan Way in Wapping, E1, tucked away to the east of the Tower of London. UK TV fans with taste will recognise the building as the HQ of ‘Renholm Industries’ from The IT Crowd.
Photographer Anna (Julia Roberts) works out of her expansive loft apartment at 3-11 Westland Place, N1, a real artists’ studio off City Road north of Old Street tube station. A couple of doors away, 15 Westland Place was the apartment of Kevin McKidd in the underrated 1998 comedy Bedrooms And Hallways, before it became Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant.
As Dan wavers between Anna and Alice, the background music is the trio Soave Il Vento from Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutti, which may (or may not) be an homage to John Schlesinger’s 1971 Sunday Bloody Sunday, which underscores another complex screen triangle with the same piece.
Constantly horny doctor Larry (Clive Owen) is lured to meet the mysterious partner he’s, um, chatted to online at the London Sealife Aquarium in County Hall on the South Bank, beneath the London Eye. It’s a hoax, of course, but he does get to meet the real Anna.
The four meet up at Anna’s photographic exhibition, held at Whiteleys, Queensway, in Bayswater. London’s first department store, Whiteleys has been developed into a vast shopping centre, complete with its own cinema and bowling alley. You can see the store it as it was in the Sixties in Ken Russell’s Billion Dollar Brain and the 1970 Bette Davis drama Connecting Rooms. Its new look is briefly glimpsed in Love Actually.
Dan lives in Smithfield EC1, at 4a Cowcross Street squeezed in between restaurants. You can see the famous Smithfield Market when he rushes down to the street as ‘Alice’ leaves him.
The lavish-looking opera house, where Anna and Dan act out far more drama in the bar than is on the stage, is the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Catherine Street, in Covent Garden. The red and gilt bar is its Grand Saloon.
It’s in the Portrait Restaurant, the rooftop restaurant of the National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place WC2, with its terrific view over Trafalgar Square, that Larry refuses to sign divorce papers for Anna unless she consents to one last bout of sex for old time’s sake.
Dan braves the torrential rain to confront Larry in his surgery at 18 Southampton Place in Bloomsbury, and then has a moment of revelation in Postman’s Park. If you were wondering, yes – the Alice Ayres plaque at which he looks is real.
There’s a final closing shot of New York, as the newly confident Jane/Alice is glimpsed blithely walking along Broadway at West 47th Street.