THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE: DVD
When Audrey Burke (Halle Berry) is given the news that Brian (David Duchovny), her husband of 11 years, and father of two young children has been killed in a random act of violence, when he was going to a stranger's help, she is devastated. Audrey has never approved of Brian's old childhood friend Jerry Sunborne (Benicio Del Toro), a recovering heroin addict, but now feels compelled to involve him in her life. Ten year old Harper (Alexis Llewellyn) and six year old Dory (Micah Berry) seem to respond well to having Jerry around. Audrey invites Jerry to move into their basement spare room, and begin to face their demons of grief and denial, together.
Review by Louise Keller:
A Susanne Bier film guarantees us a potent emotional journey, and this, Bier's first English language film, dissects hearts and searches for truths. Accept the good, we are told. But there is much more to accept than just the good. There is loss, jealousy, resentment and the compelling need to escape. The need to escape from fear, reality and the prison of our own making. With the effective use of tight close ups, we become captive to the emotional worlds of Bier's characters.
As illuminating as fluorescent lighting, Benicio Del Toro's expressive face is used like a palette; his character Jerry becoming the catalyst for change. A study in complexity, Del Toro is fascinating to watch with his perceptive, sunken eyes, fidgety manner, furrowed brow and ever-questioning body language. It is a masterful performance, as he interacts with Halle Berry's initially resentful Audrey and the two children, who welcome him as a father-replacement. Six year old Micah Berry is as cute as a button playing Dory, the little boy scared to put his head underwater, while Alexis Llewellyn is excellent as Harper, the plaintive little girl who imagines she becomes a captive in a sad movie.
While Jerry's journey is more dramatic, as he teeters on the tightrope of addiction to denial, Audrey's journey is more internal. Together they make a conflicted portrait of struggle to overcome pain. 'I hated you for so many years; but it now all seems so silly,' she tells him. David Duchovny's performance as Brian, who we meet in flashback, is key to the story's integrity. Also important to the evolvement of the characters are John Carroll Lynch's Howard, Brian's former running partner, and Alison Lohman's recovered addict Kelly, who understands the importance of taking things one day at a time.
Things We Lost In The Fire is an emotionally rich film about the little things in life, which inevitably become big things. It's about the tangible and the intangible. Things that are said and those that are not. A film to savour.
DVD special features include deleted scenes, trailer and a featurette about the making of the film.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I'm a big fan of Susanne Bier - her films like Open Hearts, After the Wedding, were made with fellow Dane, the writer Thomas Anders Jensen. If only Jensen had written her debut English language feature, too .... Allan Loeb's screenplay is not bad, by any means, but it has weaknesses that make it an average film, not something special.
Bier loves stories about relationships derailed by an accident or some unexpected event. Like an engaged couple torn apart by a car accident ... and what happens next is unexpected (Open Hearts). But there is more involved than the story; we need the right characters in the right place. Sadly, David Duchovny's Brian is a bland creation and his sudden death leaves wife Audrey (Halle Berry) in shambles - but not us. His ghost is larger than his living persona. Even the scenes establishing his friendship with Jerry are heavy handed and trite.
His kids loved him, of course, but the scenes showing happy families in flashback are not worthy of Bier.
Halle Berry plays the grieving widow, but she isn't written with much depth (there is her grief ... and her grief), and her turnaround from long-term hate of Brian's heroin addicted best friend Jerry (Benicio del Toro) to inviting him into her home is plainly a writer's device. The best part of the film is del Toro's performance, a junkie jumble of many layers, glued together with a deep seated humanity that reaches out to us. The two kids are also terrific, and their dialogue is thankfully child-like.
The themes of recovery - Audrey from grief, Jerry from drug addiction - generate some drama, and the core issue of friendship is neatly portrayed, but we should be moved to tears by the characters' journey, not left to analyse them.
Published August 21, 2008
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THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE: DVD (MA)
CAST: Halle Berry, Benicio Del Toro, David Duchovny, Alexis Llewellyn, Micah Berry, John Carroll Lynch, Alison Lohman, Robin Weigert
PRODUCER: Sam Mendes, Sam Mercer
DIRECTOR: Susanne Bier
SCRIPT: Allan Loeb
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom Stern
EDITOR: Pernille Bech Christensen, Bruce Cannon
MUSIC: Johan Söderqvist
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Richard Sherman
RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 14, 2008
SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted scenes, trailer and a featurette about the making of the film.
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: August 21, 2008