Most everyone has at some point reflected back on certain choices or events that may have seemed trivial at the time, but turned out to be pivotal in completely changing the course of one's life. Upon identifying that moment post hoc, it's inevitable to wonder how different life would have been had you done or not done whatever ultimately brought you to your present existence. "Sliding Doors" is set at just such a crossroads: young, beautiful PR executive Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow) has just been fired, and she defeatedly makes her way home in hopes of some consolation from her live-in boyfriend Gerry (John Lynch). She races to catch the subway, but the doors slam shut just as she gets there. However, a quick rewind takes us back a few seconds, and this time Helen manages to squeeze through the doors at the last second. From here, the film intercuts with impressive fluidity the divergent paths her life takes in each scenario. As just one example of the repercussions of such a seemingly unimportant occurrence as missing a train, the Helen that does manage to board the tube gets home in time to catch her beloved in bed with an ex-girlfriend (Jeanne Tripplehorn), while the other Helen just misses walking in on the tryst. The ripple effect is intriguingly dramatic in its impact on Helen's entire world(s).
Both storylines are compelling and engaging as writer-director Peter Howitt expertly unfolds and intertwines the parallel possibilities. With a pleasing balance of romance, comedy and drama, "Sliding Doors" is an exceedingly original story that appeals to both the heart and mind. Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, John Hannah, John Lynch and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Written and directed by Peter Howitt. Produced by Sydney Pollack, Philippa Braithwaite and William Horberg. A Miramax release. Romantic comedy/drama. Rated R for some sexuality and language. Running time: 98 min.