In this emotionally potent film, which hinges on the repercussions of an unexpected death, Danish director Susanne Bier, who also directed the critically acclaimed 2006 film After the Wedding, tells a character-driven story.
This compelling drama rotates around Brian Burke (David Duchovny). One evening, as he is returning from the grocery store, he is killed while intervening in a family dispute between two strangers. His reputation of being a nice guy and family man was impeccable. The film deals with numerous flashback scenes establishing the back story of Brian's loving relationship with his wife Audrey (Halle Berry) and their two young children. He was also a loyal friend to his childhood buddy Jerry Sunborne (Benicio Del Toro) who once was an attorney but is now a drug addict.
The complex plot delves into Audrey's resentment of Jerry and Brian's close friendship. After Brian's death she realizes Jerry should be invited to the funeral. It seems that she wants him to share in the mourning. She has problems with the children and coping with the loss and decides to have Jerry take up residency on their estate. Her grief overcomes her and she relies on Jerry more and more as time goes on. Jerry has his demons of his own and must recover from his addiction. These two people must find the inner strength to help each other.
This challenging role for Halle Berry gives her a solid platform as a serious dramatic actress. The last time I have seen her carry a role this well was in Monster's Ball, for which she won an Oscar. Benicio Del Toro has always been a powerful actor. He gives a mood-swinging portrayal of a drug-addicted man who has the intelligence to deal with complex problems. The story line maintains a connection with the late husband as the two main characters (Audrey and Jerry) deal with denial and grief.
Special characters emerge as the story unfolds. There is Kelly (Alison Lohman), a long-time addict in recovery, who befriends Jerry when he relapses back into his addiction. She doesn't enable Jerry, but gives him tough love and shares her insights in dealing with Audrey and while she's getting her life in order. Another character is Howard Glassman (John Carroll Lynch), who was one of Jerry's close friends and finds great qualities in him. Howard lacks backbone when it comes to making decisions and Jerry gives support to him as he solves his own problems. The two children of Jerry and Audrey are Harper (Alexis Llewellyn), a young girl looking for a father figure in Jerry, and her younger brother Dory (Micah Berry). Both children give fine performances.
This is a must-see, sensitive movie about recovery and hope.
Directed by: Susanne Bier
Running time: 1 hour 52 minutes
Rlease date: October 19, 2007
Distributor: Paramount/DreamWorks Pictures
MPAA Rating: R