This isn’t for everyone but it is an amazing and highly original film!
It’s fitting that I saw this film and reviewed it today, as, coincidentally, it’s also the star’s birthday—so a happy birthday to Annette Bening.
While I really loved this film, it’s one that is not for everyone. In addition, it was in and out of theaters so quickly that I really doubt that many folk got to see this one. It’s a shame, as I really, really admire this film and more folks should see it.
The reason I say that the film is not for everyone isn’t because it’s bad—it’s marvelous. However, if you are a widow or widower, it might be a bit tough watching the film. Additionally, if you simply refuse to watch a sad film or are already depressed, this one isn’t for you. It doesn’t come with the usual happy Hollywood ending—something I appreciate but which will no doubt disappoint some viewers.
Bening plays Nikki—a woman who is still grieving over the death of her beloved husband five years earlier. She seems stuck and her life isn’t especially fulfilling. However, when she one day happens to see a man in a gallery who looks exactly like her late husband (Ed Harris), she becomes obsessed. She returns to the gallery again and again and again—hoping to see the guy. Eventually, he does return and she stalks him and discovers that he’s a teacher at a local college. She then shows up at him art class and proceeds to make a fool of herself.
However, he’s intrigued and when they see each other again, they begin talking and a romance develops. However, Nikki is an emotionally disturbed woman. No, she isn’t crazy—but she is unable and simply not ready to have a healthy relationship with Tom. Instead of explaining to him that he is a double for the dead man, Nikki tells him nothing. In fact, she goes so far as to hide him from her friends and family because she wants nothing to stop her from symbolically reclaiming her dead husband in the form of Tom. Heck, at times, she even calls him by her dead husband’s name!
If Hollywood types had done the film, it clearly would have ended up very differently. This is NOT a film where everything is wrapped up neatly or makes the viewer feel thrilled for the lovers. No. Instead it’s a film about being stuck—and how, ultimately, that can really keep you from living your life to the fullest. It’s a wonderful lesson for us all—but it’s also a very painful lesson. Be sure to have some Kleenex handy and don’t be surprised if the film leaves you emotionally drained. However, it’s a good sort of feeling and you can’t help but admire the folks who made the film—even if it’s not a huge money-maker. As for the actors, Bening and Harris are simply great—very believable and easy to connect with in the film. I also appreciate how middle aged actresses and actors star in this one.
Too often filmmakers seem to present the world as only for the young. Additionally, I was surprised at Robin Williams in this one. His role was surprisingly small and unlike what you’d normally expect to see from him—and I also appreciate that. Finally, the director and co-writer Ari Posin deserves so much of the credit for this film. Despite very little experience in the industry (or perhaps because of it), he manages to create a wonderful story without the usual cliches. Draining but wonderful. Well worth seeing. And, if you do see it, pay close attention to the music—it’s really, really fitting and creates a strongly evocative mood.
Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer