Directed By: Jean Marc-Vallee
Written By: Bryan Sipe
Cinematography By: Yves Balenger
Editor: Jay M.Glen
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper, Judah Lewis, Polly Draper, Debra Monk, Heather Lind
A successful investment banker struggles after losing his wife in a tragic car crash. With the help of a customer service rep and her young son, he starts to rebuild, beginning with the demolition of the life he once knew.
The screenplay for this film was featured in the 2007 Blacklist; a list of the “most liked” unmade scripts of the year.
This is one of those almost movies. That feels like it is almost o to something but seems to get lost before it can say ultimately what it wants to or before actually saying something profound.
The film stays off-center yet always pretty in its presentations the films end up feeling too designed like the products he dismantled to see how they work. Which the film tries to work in the same way. But seems too on the nose to be quirky and accepting as it seems to want to be offbeat.
A character study where the protagonist tries to find himself and ends up attracting other so-called misfits fighting to find and be themselves. While also trying to be seen as normal and fit in. Though really questioning what that is.
It is basically the main character having to dismantle and destroy his life to rebuild and start again. Which is why his character seeks to take things apart and study them. To see how they work and how they function.
The film is meant to be more of a character study which it achieves and as usual unfortunately also introduces characters more interesting than the lead. Who get scenes of depth and drama, but ultimately seem more like ornaments meant to distract and beautify the film add some flavor, but never really get to shine themselves.
Which is becoming more common in director Jean Marc-Vallee oveure of films. Presenting a kind of reality that always comes with some quirk or bigger than life or life-affirming meaning that seems more magnified than normal. Her he seems to go through realistic characters take on life and challenges as we watch to see their journey through it to the other side. More like emotional action movies with a sharp eye for visuals
It feels more a film about trying to win awards. Though there is some heart in here and tries to say something about the human condition. More about finding yourself. Here it seems like the character was already on that path. Only a tragedy happened that really opened his eyes and lead him to it.
The film feels transparent. It speaks to the audience as the film asks how are you supposed to react to tragedy? Is it disrespectful if in your reaction you aren’t emotional enough or know how exactly to feel? It’s not exactly Always textbook. As we are all individuals. So it Aldo’s how do you feel when what came before was almost on autopilot of what was expected but. Ever felt fulfilling, deserving so that it was almost a lie.
It feels like a film as all of the things that happen seem more announced. I can go with the suspension of disbelief, but when made so obvious it is hard.
This is a feel-good film, yet it becomes what it seems to want to avoid by becoming overbearing after a while.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s detached performance is what will win you over. As he is at total opposites at times but he keeps the film spirited and lively. Where he not only becomes the center of attention, but the most entertaining aspect of the film.
What is at least original is that the film doesn’t paint the main character as some kind of saint or hero. He freely admits his faults and the bad things in the past. It doesn’t praise his wife but makes them look more like a human coup going through the motions of a relationship and never really talking about their problems or dealing with them before this accident happens.
I wish the same could be said of Naomi watts character who is interesting. As her problems are laid bare, but her wrong decisions make her at least interesting when it comes to her character’s psychology. Even as we are used to Naomi watts playing these complicated characters. The character is there but the performance never quite catches on as it feels too plain when it might be better to showcase more of her at war with herself. Here her character keeps it maintained maybe due to her pot smoking. Which might regulate those feelings.
As his late wife throughout the movie haunts him and the other characters but we learn little about her though by the end she becomes more real for us in the audience to get more of a sense of her and not exactly the saint she has been made to be at the beginning. Just that something bad happened to her that she didn’t deserve. As with most of the characters. She was just trying to figure things out and all the people who believe they have it all figured out have comfort but aren’t necessarily being truthful to themselves or are rather simple The other aspect of the film that is eye-catching is the more modern designed clothing and appliances. That comes off shiny and smooth and provide the perfect facade, before revealing their grungy and dirty insides once explored.
Other Than the tragedy the film easily comes off as more middle-aged wish fulfillment than anything else.
Though the film does manage to win you over at certain points and feels personal to a degree when it’s supposed to.