Things We Lost in the Fire (2007)
Things We Lost in the Fire (2007)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 58 min.

Release Date: October 19th, 2007 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Susanne Bier Actors: Halle Berry, Benicio Del Toro, David Duchovny, John Carroll Lynch, Alexis Llewellyn, Alison Lohman, Robin Weigert, Paula Newsome

 


 

I

n the blink of an eye, Audrey Burke (Halle Berry) loses her husband Brian (David Duchovny) in a senseless murder. A few days later, the fast-approaching funeral reminds her that she forgot to invite Brian’s best friend, Jerry Sunborne (Benicio Del Toro), a recovering heroin addict. Though Audrey is distraught and finding understandable difficulty coping with her sudden loss, she invites Jerry to stay in her home. Despite her constant disapproval of the man’s horrific lifestyle, she hopes to fill some of the emptiness in her life, as well as to take pity on his pathetic situation. When Jerry’s presence generates more comfort and feelings than she anticipated, especially in the eyes of her two young children, Audrey must come to terms with her newfound situation and determine what Jerry’s influential company may mean to her family.

An obvious, major examination in this dramatic character study is the way in which death affects family life/routines, friends, relationships, and general behaviors. Audrey mourns for two hours, initially projecting her anger onto Jerry before realizing the significance of his companionship, making her a relatively dislikable character, even if her actions are entirely believable. Berry’s performance is powerful and emotional, certain to divide audiences on her worthiness of sympathy or contempt.

Del Toro, likewise, inspires with his heartfelt and deeply moving role – a troubled, damaged individual who doesn’t want pity, but whose woeful undertakings practically demand it. As it turns out, grief and addiction are comparable angsts. It’s left open as to how Jerry met Brian, and why they were so close, considering their extremely different paths, but their connection and acceptance of each other’s positions is perfectly cinematic. And when Jerry becomes more than just a house guest, unexpected kindness and attention is reflected from the children – as well as from the slowly softening Audrey, who can’t help but to intermittently provide spontaneous contention. With authenticity and passion, Del Toro just might have pulled off the finest performance of his career.

Two factors remain mildly unsettling during the course of “Things We Lost in the Fire.” Firstly, the camera frequently lingers on extreme close-ups of characters’ eyes. Never are both eyes framed; only one manages to cross the lens’ path, and off-centered to boot, which is not only unusual but also less emotionally effective than a larger portion of the face could have been. Perhaps it’s meant to be innovative, but it serves no purpose other than to cause the audience to take note of its strangeness – or for director Susanne Bier to annoyingly grasp at a signature artistic style. Secondly, the film jumps back and forth in time. Quite unnecessary for a plot as straightforward as this (it could have utilized flashbacks more suitably instead), the shifting timeframe becomes about as pointlessly disorienting as it is unoriginal.

Though slowly paced, “Things We Lost in the Fire” is a film that knows how to build characters and thought-provoking situations for a striking analyzation of sorrow and struggle and the strength to reclaim a semblance of normalcy after a staggering loss. It thrives on exceptional performances, unencumbered by frequent location changes, a large ensemble cast, or unnecessary plot complexities. Even if the execution of the narrative can’t bring too much fresh material to the familial tragedies already out there, or the non-sequential storyline fails to amuse, it’s still a must-see picture – as well as an early, if a bit ill-timed, Academy Award contender.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10