Reign Over Me
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Mike Binder
with Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle, Jada Pinkett Smith, Liv Tyler, Saffron Burrows, Melinda Dillon, Robert Klein, Mike Binder, Paula Newsome, Rae Allen, Cicely Tyson, Donald Sutherland
release US 23.Mar.07,
UK 20.Apr.07
07/US Columbia 2h04
Reign Over Me
Down to the river: Cheadle and Sandler

smith tyler burrows

Reign Over Me Whether it's a sensitive comedy or a warm but dark drama, there's plenty to chew on in this complex, intriguing film. It feels a little undisciplined at times--dragging and wallowing through the final act--but it's bracingly provocative.

Alan (Cheadle) is a Manhattan dentist who spots his dental-school roommate Charlie (Sandler) on a street: a stammering, volatile wreck of a man, even four years after his wife and three children were killed on 9/11. As Alan tries to renew his friendship with Charlie, his own life needs some attention. His wife (Smith) is jealous of the time he's away from home, and a patient (Burrows) is suing for assault. But the real problems begin when his psychologist friend (Tyler) starts treating Charlie.

For viewers who pay attention, there's so much going on in this story that it's almost overwhelming. From the raw honesty of the characters to the intense intelligence of the script, the film worms its way under the skin. It's extremely low-key, with drama that's realistic and raw, balanced with a constant stream of natural humour and never remotely sentimental. It's packed with astute comical and emotional observations and loaded with themes that we readily identify with.

Cheadle is our eyes into the story, coping with everything life has to throw at him and trying to keep his head. It's wonderfully understated acting, the calm at the eye of the storm, and a terrific portrayal of 21st century urban life. Meanwhile, Sandler gives his finest performance to date as the shattered, haunted Charlie. He's a bit mechanical and affected, with his Bob Dylan hair and Rain Man mannerisms, but it's still powerfully moving when he offers glimpses of the aching man inside.

Binder handles the material adeptly--the film looks polished and clean, with flashes of energy and honesty (the title comes from the Who song). He lets the pace slow badly along the way, with unnecessary and underdeveloped plot points and too-lenient editing. But beyond the story itself, the film works remarkably as an allegory about both internal grief and a nation still struggling to get its footing after a devastating tragedy. In this sense, the film is urgent and essential.

cert 15 themes, language, some innuendo 6.Feb.07

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2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall