Woody Allen beautifully sets up this existential cipher in his newest film, Match Point, starring Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. Christopher Walton, Rhys-Meyers’ character, has abandoned his international life as a professional tennis-player for the more sedate, country club scene in London.
At the outset of the film, we find Chris interviewing for a position as the tennis pro of a London sports club. This is a very conscious directorial decision of Allen’s because the unsuspecting audience is immediately struck by Chris’s hard-work ethic and humble good looks; we trust him. A poor Irishman, looking to start a new life in England, leaves the viewer relieved that he gets the job.
From this point forward the film commits itself to a fluid and light-hearted pace. Chris’s first client on the court, Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), becomes his social counselor and economic mentor. As these relationships develop, Chris becomes a surrogate member of the Hewett family; horseback riding, hunting, swimming, and eating and drinking their cares away at different cottages scattered across England.
Luxurious, flawless and unforgettably eerie, the viewer wants badly to believe that this unstained lifestyle will continue forever.
Chris has even found a romance that will ensure his position in this high-society life. He will marry Chloe Hewett (Emily Mortimer), Tom’s younger sister. This perfect package seems complete and the viewer suspends their skepticism to believe in this upper-class fairytale.
There is just one element shaking the foundation of the sacred family tree, Nola Rice (Johansson).
Tom is engaged to Nola, the struggling actress and sensual American that infuriates Tom’s mother and arouses Chris. From the moment that Chris and Nola meet, it is clear that Woody Allen is testing our morals, our desires, our ability to decide right from wrong.
It is here that the catechism of luck falls back into play. We find ourselves supporting Chris and wanting the best for him, but he is our anti-hero. The man who takes it all, leaves no room for honesty and still comes out on top. Perhaps, it is for this reason that Chris Walton is the ‘everyman,’ the one who lets us surrender our ethics and never look back.