We Donít Live Here Anymore
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr John Curran
with Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Naomi Watts, Peter Krause, Jennifer Bishop, Sam Charles, Haili Page, Amber Rothwell, Jennifer Mawhinney, Marc Baur, Meg Roe, Jim Francis
release US 13.Aug.04,
UK 17.Jun.05
04/US 1h41

Four friends: Ruffalo, Krause, Watts and Dern

ruffalo dern
watts krause

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Based on two stories by Andre Dubus (House of Sand and Fog), this relationship drama is so packed with serious themes that it's almost unbearable! Brilliant acting and perceptive writing makes it worth sticking with, but this is extremely intense filmmaking.

Mark and Terry (Ruffalo and Dern) have two precocious kids (Charles and Page) and a chaotic life that's always on the edge of financial ruin. Their best friends Hank and Edith (Krause and Watts), on the other hand, with their bright daughter (Bishop), are outwardly serene and ordered. But Hank's casual infidelities spur Edith to look for love from Mark, who quickly obliges. The affair causes all sorts of fallout, including an escalation of flirtation between Terry and Hank, and a deep examination of the meaning of love for each of these people.

Writer-director Curran examines virtually every conceivable angle at this stage in a relationship: the fine line between love and hate, making love versus having sex, the need to love and feel loved, the difference in loving someone for what they do or who they are, and the fact that there are things we simply refuse to talk about. Not only is this very strong stuff, but the film is fairly relentless in its approach, giving us only tiny glimpses of natural life humour but not nearly enough to lighten the load.

Ruffalo, Dern, Watts and Krause are wonderful, providing moments of transparency and insight that bring out the film's themes. These people approach the situation in four very different ways, so it's fairly easy to identify with at least one of them. And the writing and acting are daring enough to avoid letting one person win the sympathy vote. Like the filmmaking style, the performances are both warm and rhythmic in the shifting liaisons. And they're also far too serious and heavy--relying more on anger, bitterness and paranoia, with only a flicker of commitment, compassion and regret. These are complex people who are deeply flawed but also capable of moments of everyday heroism. And perhaps the film's biggest strength is that Curran and his cast never offer us an easy way out.

cert 15 themes, language, sex 15.Oct.04 lff

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© 2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall