Metroland, based on Julian Barnes's first novel, is a tale of midlife, middle-class malaise reminiscent of Ang Lee's The Ice Storm. It's 1977, and shaggy-haired thirtysomething Chris (Christian Bale) has a lovely wife (Emily Watson) and baby, a solid office job, and a nice house in the London suburb of Metroland. Life is good, until the surprise arrival of old chum Toni (Lee Ross), whom Chris has not seen for 10 years and who was his accomplice in teenage shenanigans and heady visions of a bohemian life abroad. Toni, an inveterate ladies man and rootless poet, disdains his old friend's bourgeois milieu and feels it his duty to revive Chris's passion for women, art, and rock & roll. Meanwhile, Chris can't stop fantasizing about his steamier days as a 20-year-old in Paris with his sultry French girlfriend, and fails to notice that Toni covets his wife and that she has sexual desires of her own. While there's a palpable sexual energy in the movie's proceedings that adds a certain zing to the themes of angst and longing, their eventual epiphanies are disappointingly benign. Lee Ross's swashbuckling Toni and Emily Watson's intelligent, knowing wife carry the movie. --Rebecca Wright
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