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Emotional Backgammon (2003)

R | | Drama | 29 August 2003 (UK)
John thinks life is just perfect. He's in what he considers a solid relationship with girlfriend Mary and his job as a tailor suits him down to the ground. To put the icing on the cake he's... See full summary »


Leon Herbert




Credited cast:
Leon Herbert ... Steve
Bob Mercer Bob Mercer ... Paul
Steve Weston Steve Weston ... Cab driver
Steve Edwin Steve Edwin ... Psychiatrist
Dee Cannon Dee Cannon ... Theatre Director
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Tracey Vanessa Brown Tracey Vanessa Brown ... Tia
Wil Johnson ... John
Colin Lainchbury-Brown ... Vincent
Daniela Lavender ... Mary


John thinks life is just perfect. He's in what he considers a solid relationship with girlfriend Mary and his job as a tailor suits him down to the ground. To put the icing on the cake he's about to ask Mary to marry him over the dinner which John has cooked especially. With the ring ready for Mary's hand, John is unprepared for Mary announcing that she's leaving him to find herself. Written by Freddie Bloggs Jr.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

independent film | See All (1) »


Love is like a game of backgammon... You take your chances.



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexuality, some graphic dialogue and language | See all certifications »


Official Sites:

Leon Herbert





Release Date:

29 August 2003 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Emotional Blackgammon See more »

Filming Locations:

London, England, UK

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital
See full technical specs »

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User Reviews

Comedy-drama with mixed results
12 September 2003 | by edwardlambertiSee all my reviews

Emotional Backgammon is a relationship comedy-drama set in London. Cynical Steve (Leon Herbert) instructs sensitive John (Wil Johnson) in the scheming, manipulative world of women - principally, John's estranged girlfriend, Mary (Daniela Lavender). Meanwhile, her friends, led by Jane (Jacqueline De Peza), give her similarly ruthless advice about how to deal with men. It's a familiar premise for a movie, and one which Emotional Backgammon seizes enthusiastically. The results are very mixed, but this is a film worth seeing.

The idea of 'emotional backgammon', as rather strenuously outlined by Steve in the film's on-off narration, is a pretty laboured metaphor - and an awkward title for a film: it sounds more like a comedy theatrical piece. First-time director-co-writer-co-producer Herbert might have been better off had he dropped the explanation and let the title speak for itself.

And in spite of such an overly helpful framing device, the treatment of the characters remains ambivalent. John is warm-hearted and perceptive, and yet the film seems more ready to advocate Steve's colder, stereotypical opinions. And while the structure, which in effect cross-cuts between the men and the women, might be seeking to show a balanced view of gender relations, the ultimate impression is of a male-dominated piece which ultimately doesn't break any new thematic ground.

The tone of the movie, though, is consistent throughout, and the pace never flags. It's been shot on High Definition, more, one suspects, due to budgetary constraints than through choice, but it's done quite well: the images are clean and contemporaneous, even if at times there's enough lighting that they could have shot it in monochrome if they'd wanted to. And if the directing style is often too busy - the actors gesture too much, many of the camera angles are hyper and swoon-inducing - Herbert manages to stage two scenes in which the pain felt by characters is very raw. The first such moment is when Mary walks out, leaving John crumpled on the floor by the front door. As he remains huddled there, the camera holds the moment long enough for it to become uncomfortable - and compassionate. Much later, after Jane has had sex with one of Steve's friends in a piece of heartless calculation, her scream of dismay is truly piercing.

It's moments such as these, coupled with Herbert's own rather sombre screen presence, which suggest that this filmmaker has real talents. Emotional Backgammon is unsatisfying, then, and underwhelming, but it's got energy to spare.

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