A Million Little Pieces (15)**

Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson

With: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Juliette Lewis, Billy Bob Thornton

Runtime: 113 minutes

Set in the 1990s, this sluggish melodrama is based on an autobiographical book by James Frey about his experiences as a young drug addict. Taylor-Johnson plays Frey, whom we meet going through withdrawal and entering the rehab facility where almost the entire film takes place.

What’s served up there is all so cliched and familiar that you at first think it’s perhaps going to play with the tropes of the genre, when in fact it’s simply reheating all the ones we’ve seen in this kind of story many times before. James goes through his daily routines with a stereotyped roster of staff and patients, taking part in group meetings and butting heads with authority figures as he deals with his rage issues while we’re drip-fed the occasional flashbacks into his past.

Strong actors keep popping up - there goes Juliette Lewis as a counsellor, Giovanni Ribisi and Billy Bob Thornton as fellow addicts - without really adding very much, although Thornton gets by far the most affecting story. What we’re watching is well enough presented, and Taylor-Johnson certainly throws himself into the role with conviction, but it’s nowhere near enough to capture the attention of the audience.

The problem lies with a script that essentially goes through the motions and never really moves us forward scene by scene. Instead, it’s gruelling stuff that seems to revel in its wallow in misery, and that’s even before we get to a dentistry scene where, because James’s body can’t handle the anaesthetic… Well, you can fill in the rest for yourselves.

The memoir by Frey on which A Million Little Pieces is based was subsequently revealed to have been largely invented, but that’s really neither here nor there when dealing with a narrative feature, which has a responsibility to provide us with convincing drama and characters who exhibit interesting human behaviour and growth. Neither is evident and for all the punishment, there’s no reward or insight to speak of, and therefore no point to a film that quickly becomes utterly drab and inert, and worse, feels like it goes on forever.