The independent film is often one that is ignored by the masses .The only time someone may see one is if there’s an actor they truly like in it. If not, they skip over it as it’s barely registered as something that should be seen. Indies, as they’re affectionately called, are the films that are allowed to be fully realized instead of chopped up to be marketable and profitable, like your major studio releases and Summer blockbuster films.
The Weinstein Company (TWC) film “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them”, is one such fine and well thought out independent film, that also has a bold approach to telling a complex story. It’s hard too want to deliberately pass on this film.
This romance drama stars James McAvoy (“X-Men: Days of Future Past”, “Filth”), Jessica Chastain (upcoming films “A Most Violent Year”, “Interstellar”), Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”, “Get on Up”), Bill Hader (“They Came Together”, “The Skeleton Twins”), Ciaran Hinds (“Game of Thrones”, “Frozen”), Isabelle Huppert (“Paris Follies”, “Abuse of Weakness”), William Hurt (“Winter’s Tale”, “Days and Nights”), and Jess Weixler (“The Good Wife”, “Listen Up Philip”).
The film was written and directed by Ned Benson (“Yes (Short 2010)”, “The Westerner (Short 2010)”).
The film opened in theaters on Sept. 12, 2014. It first premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 17, Ischia Global Film & Music Festival on July 14, and recently the Deauville Film Festival on Sept. 6.
Okay, so to start I’m going to state a fact that may or may not already be known. This film was originally two separate films, totaling over three hours long. TWC wanted a more mainstream version, and here we are, “Them”. While this is incredibly exciting, it’s most definitely not without its problems. Every film has them, even with so much that lands in the favorable column.
One major approach to telling this story, is the character development. The development is slow and deliberate and sets a specific pace for the film. It’s odd, as this doesn’t hinder the film, like it could’ve, but only makes it that much more engrossing. You get too see these characters change, pretty drastically, even after you see how fractured the relationship is. Because of this, you can hang on to every moment. The first thing I thought of when seeing these characters is how well they’re defined. Even after the film finished, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I’ve never felt this knowledgable on a fictional person. I understood them as if they were real people, which is something that seldom happens, unless it’s over several seasons on some TV series. This helped me to feel so much for each one and understand why they were making the choices they needed to make.
I’ll just say this, on why I feel that the characters could come off the screen so fully developed… the acting was simple. It achieved what was needed for this dramatic story. There was nothing over the top. Each moment was so specific and thought out, that if it were any other director, he/she would probably have sped through scenes much faster. Benson, fortunately, stayed and allowed for the actors to just exist in any given moment. This then allowed the actors to find the right balance of emotions so you could see how they were dealing with the situation. This was the characters way of coping and dealing with the hand that had been dealt. The film doesn’t try to sugar coat this aspect at all, and it is where some of the better character reactions and acting comes about.
Davis and Huppert, whether intentionally or not, provided some lighter moments, even when the conversations or scenes, had with Chastain or McAvoy were slightly more emotional. Huppert’s character was loving and concerned, as any mother should be, but she also liked to drink. There was hardly a scene where she wasn’t drinking some sort of wine. While time of day may not have been specifically cited, it didn’t matter. It somehow was still a bit funny. Yes it could mean that she may be an alcoholic, or as close to one as she can get, or she just enjoys wine, regardless of the time of day. It was kind of refreshing to always see, and expect, a glass of wine near her.
Davis, on the other hand, actually had some genuine character moments that were just plain amusing. It was the way she had developed her character that made her also caring and sympathetic, but at the same time, a no nonsense type of person. I loved one scene when she talked about walking away from things and starting a “whole history of walk aways”, and ended up admitting that it seemed to come out sillier than she’d planned. The way that whole exchange, between her and Chastain, was genuinely funny.
The most fascinating thing to happen to this film, which I actually loved, was how a crucial plot detail was slowly revealed. The reason why Eleanor and Connor, Chastain and McAvoy respectively, were in this really rough patch, even though you know throughout, that they both love each other so much. It was referenced off and on, but not flat out to just inform you and be done with it. The information came out in dribs and drabs. Because of this approach, you were definitely left with a need to find out more. Curiosity settled in quite nicely. Each new piece of information, along with much more, allowed for heavy dramatic and sad emotions to hit you effectively. It wasn’t just some added drama that you cared little for, but something real. I certainly wasn’t expecting something like that from this type of film.
The biggest problem I had with this film was that it didn’t live up to a genre it is being called or one quote specifically from a critic. This film is being called a romance film, and the critic, Sasha Stone said, “One of the most romantic love stories ever.” The original trailer for “Them” didn’t help either. It seemed more like a journey of two people meeting and falling in love, and, as relationships do, hitting rough patches. Sadly, this is not so. While there is still plenty of romance throughout the entire film, and you can clearly see that the characters love each other a lot, it’s more just a dramatic relationship film. One that can still entertain and move you all at once. For instance, while the bulk of the film was sadder, the flashbacks of happier times were really good. They were fun too. As with the whole film, the chemistry between the leads was there and believable. I could enjoy the happy moments they had, what helped to show they loved each other deeply, and the moments that tore at them and made them ache.
The problem with forcing a third film out of something that’s not meant to have a third, is editing and a final product that just seems off. While this was only a slight problem for me, it was most definitely not something I could avoid noticing when watching. This film really seemed quite random when it jumped between scenes, especially when going between Chastain and McAvoy, as you’d expect from a film subtitled “Them”. While a casual filmgoer, who happens to like the story and cast, might not know that this is actually a third film, probably wouldn’t think anything of this. I had no choice. I knew this film was the combination of two separate films. It’s what happens when you follow every news item on a film and its actors. I still enjoyed it a lot, but could never shake the feeling that at times things almost made no sense.
I did like, that Benson didn’t utilize the traditional “X number of weeks later…” ploy, instead, it was clear and later stated in some way by another character, that time had passed. This allowed things to continue forward in a more organic manner and not slow the narrative down.
The independent film is never predictable. Nor, at times, is it all that good, no matter what the critics say. It probably just depends on what your feelings towards the film are from the beginning, that will determine whether or not you like it, or find it a success for that matter. For me, I’m still up in the air. I did love it, don’t get me wrong. However, there still seems to be something missing, that should’ve served as the catalyst for me being absolutely over the moon about it. Is it simply the desire to see the other two films? Maybe, I just need to watch this version again, and see if there’s something more to take in. It’s certainly well worth another go around.