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|Things We Lost in the Fire|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Susanne Bier|
scr Allan Loeb
with Halle Berry, Benicio Del Toro, David Duchovny, Alexis Llewellyn, Micah Berry, John Carroll Lynch, Alison Lohman, Omar Benson Miller, Paula Newsome, Robin Weigert, Sarah Dubrovsky, Maureen Thomas
release US 19.Oct.07, UK 4.Jan.08
07/US DreamWorks 1h59
Snap out of it: Del Toro and Berry
Danish director Bier focuses on themes and relationships in what's otherwise a rather contrived melodrama. The result is a powerfully moving film with intense performances from the entire cast.
Audrey (Berry) is unable to cope with the sudden death of her beloved husband Steven (Duchovny), leaving her with two kids (Llewellyn and Berry). But then, she never really coped when Steven was alive either, as he maintained a close friendship with his childhood buddy Jerry (Del Toro) even after Jerry fell into heroin addiction. Now she's struggling to balance her conflicting emotions, as Jerry is a link to Steven's memory, and also a scapegoat for her grief and resentment. Can she ever develop a friendship with him?
There are enough intriguing things going on in this film that we can overlook some silly events later on, mainly centring on a relapse/cold turkey sequence that really should have been another flashback involving Duchovny, rather than sending Berry alone into a cliched drug den (inexplicably without burly brother Miller, helpful ex-addict Lohman or supportive neighbour Lynch). But never mind. The brittle interaction between these fragile people is riveting both before and after this sideroad.
This is Del Toro's movie, as his character has the more involving arc, which he plays with subtlety and sensitivity. And Berry is excellent in a less sympathetic role as a prickly woman who simply cannot get to grips with her feelings. We know a catharsis must eventually come, simply because she's such a glamorous movie star, but she plays it with real grit and authenticity, even with the script's credibility lapses. Meanwhile, Duchovny is terrific in a role scattered through flashbacks, and Llewellyn and Berry are raw and natural child actors.
The script tries far too hard to spin a positive message from the tragedy ("Accept the good" is the oft-repeated motto), so it's fortunate that Bier puts the characters at the centre, examining their complex interaction and really digging into the themes of grief, and its accompanying fear, anger and frustration. In the end, there are some extremely strong emotional touch-points that really get under the skin
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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