Don't Go Breaking My Heart

UK 1998

Reviewed by Julianne Pidduck


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Tony, an American in London, is a sports therapist down on his luck. He's fired by his employer Linford Christie and his relationship with his girlfriend Diane is on its last legs. Meanwhile, 18 months after her cherished husband's death, Suzanne struggles to raise two children by herself and run her houseplant-consultancy business. Suzanne's close friends push the reluctant widow to start dating again and Frank, a family friend and dentist, feels that he's just the man for her. During a series of dental procedures, Frank hypnotises Suzanne, prompting her in this suggestible state to see the man who visits that evening "in a whole new light". When Tony appears by coincidence, Suzanne responds amorously to him.

Frank's seduction plot thwarted, Tony and Suzanne enjoy a tryst. Suzanne's teenage son Ben is deeply affected by the loss of his father and Tony helps him to re-establish self-confidence through sport. Discovering the hypnotism plot, Suzanne doubts the truth of her feelings and breaks things off with Tony. As he helps Ben train for a big race, the dejected Tony contemplates a job in the US. At the eleventh hour, Tony skips his New York-bound flight to witness Ben's triumphant finish in a race and to fall once again into Suzanne's arms, who realises that she really loves him.


Romantic comedy often stakes its game on the collision of two lonely or even mismatched people. Cross-cutting between the dinner preparations of pensive Hampstead widow Suzanne and sports therapist Tony's humble cross-London bus journey, the opening credits of Don't Go Breaking My Heart offer the generic ingredients of a girl, a boy and a circumstantial distance to be overcome. With its saturated primary colours and brisk montage quickened by Elton John and Kiki Dee's well-known song, this sequence establishes the crisp look and upbeat pace of music videos or television advertising. You can tell by the jauntiness that director Willi Patterson, making his feature-film debut here, used to make commercials. (Screenwriter Geoff Morrow, a songwriter whose credits include Barry Manilow's 'Can't Smile without You', is also making his first venture into features here.) With liberal dollops of simple sentiment and pop music, the film skips lightly along.

Cinematographer Vernon Layton and production designer Tony Noble present compelling views of familiar London landmarks and create lushly textured environments - Suzanne's tasteful Homes and Gardens residence, Frank's blindingly white dental surgery. At the heart of it all, Jenny Seagrove, better known for her theatre work, emanates winsome, wounded reserve. Her poised elegance makes an apt foil for Anthony Edwards' engaging American directness. (With his sensitivity and balding ordinariness, Tony is a tightly trousered incarnation of ER's Mark Greene.) These contrasting performance styles are enhanced by strong ensemble supporting work.

With all these intriguing elements at hand, Don't Go Breaking My Heart founders at the dramatic core in the delicate play of pathos and humour. Suzanne's pensive, sorrowful state is assuaged only by the rather contrived catalyst of hypnotism. To his credit, Charles Dance breathes some humanity into Frank, the philandering dentist. But despite all efforts, an uninspired script and uneven direction fail to make Suzanne's unhappy lurches from mourning widow to tender lover plausible.

A stock element of romantic comedy from It Happened One Night to As Good As It Gets, such mood shifts rely most of all on the chemistry between the romantic leads. Lulled by upscale interiors and a catchy soundtrack, the viewer might just overlook the obvious plot device and the bumpy dramatic progression. But that intangible something is sorely missing here. Seagrove is too frosty, and Edwards too wooden to thaw her. Lacking the character depth or perhaps the charisma for a leading man, Tony comes to life most when on one knee, talking tactics with Suzanne's son Ben. In this mix of family melodrama and romance, the most compelling moments arise from Ben and Tony's relationship, leaving Suzanne still in quest of a paramour.


Bill Kenwright
Geoff Morrow
Director of Photography
Vernon Layton
Peter Beston
Production Designer
Tony Noble
Rolfe Kent
©Bill Kenright Films Ltd
Production Companies
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment presents
a Bill Kenright Films production
Executive Producers
Aviator Films:
Anthony Edwards
Danté di Loreto
Line Producer
Selwyn Roberts
Associate Producers
Brett Finnigan
Rod H. Coton
Penny Corke
Production Co-ordinator
Danielle Brandon
Location Manager
Nigel Gostelow
2nd Unit Director
Selwyn Roberts
Assistant Directors
David Daniels
Toby Ford
Jim Threapleton
Script Supervisor
Sheila Wilson
John Hubbard
Ros Hubbard
Pat McCorkle
UK Associate:
Lisa-Ann Porter
Camera Operator
George Richmond
2nd Unit:
David Shillingford
Steadicam Operators
Howard Smith
Alf Tramontin
Digital Visual Effects
The Film Factory at VTR
Digital Film
Set Decorator
Brenda Roberson
Scenic Artists
James Hunt
Rachel MacFadyen
Storyboard Artists
John Greaves
Tony Chance
Costume Designer
Elizabeth Waller
Wardrobe Master
Adrian Simmons
Wardrobe Mistress
Jill Avery
Tina Earnshaw
Elizabeth Lewis
Rebecca Lafford
Hair Designer
Carol Hemming
Front Titles
Fly Design
Front/End Titles
Peerless Camera Company
Additional Film Opticals
Capital FX (London)
Music Performed by
The Philharmonic Orchestra
Allan Wilson
Tony Blondal
Kerry Wikstrom
Music Supervisor
Liz Schrek
Music Co-ordinator
Paul Talkington
Music Editor
Peter Beston
Music Recording Engineer
Keith Grant
"Don't Go Breaking My Heart" by Anne Orson, Blanche Carte, performed by Elton John, Kiki Dee; "Il pleure dans mon coeur", "L'Extase langoureuse" from "La Chanson bien douce" by Billy Cowie, performed by Lucie Robson, Cathryn Robson; "Fantastic Friend", "Flowers in Bloom", "Have You Ever Been in Love" by Steve Cutmore, performed by Kolony; "I Get Around" by Brian Wilson, performed by The Meteors; "Slam Dunk (Da Funk)" by Brenda Crichlow, Martin Sandberg, Dag Volle, Jacob Schultze, Denniz Pop, performed by Five; "Love Must Be Catching" by Merle Travis, performed by Julie London; "I Like It" by Mitch Murray, performed by Gerry and The Pacemakers; "Loving and Free" by/performed by Kiki Dee; "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" by Leo Sayer, Vini Poncia, performed by Leo Sayer; "Three Little Maids from School" by W.S. Gilbert, A.S. Sullivan, arranged by Iain Donald, performed by Hampton School Symphony Orchestra, choreographer: Henry Metcalfe, musical director: David Steadman
Sound Mixers
Peter Lindsay
2nd Unit:
Mike Harris
Dubbing Mixer
David Humphries
Sound Editor
Kevin Brazier
Dialogue Editor
Rick Dunford
John Fewell
Julie Ankerson
Trevor Swanscott
'Levi' Supplied by
Stunt Dogs
Dog Handler
Julie Tottman
Anthony Edwards
Jenny Seagrove
Charles Dance
Jane Leeves
Tom Conti
Doctor Fiedler
Linford Christie
Ben Reynolds
Ace Ryan
Amanda Holden
Susannah Doyle
Trevyn McDowell
Philip McGough
Richard Platt
Lynda Bellingham
George Layton
Nadine Hanwell
James Elvey
Julian Morris
The Bitch Boys
Sam Stockman
Luke Mullinger
Pete 'Bossman'
Michael Peluso
Pip Miller
Cris Cabitac
dental receptionist
Jeremy Child
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
8,430 feet
93 minutes 40 seconds
In Colour
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011