Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The Life Before Her Eyes...
Before this review starts, let me get something off my chest. When I recommend a film, such as The House of Sand and Fog or Audition, two vastly different films, I have a warning attached. Take THOSAF for example. It's a brilliant film, featuring amazing performances, screenwriting, and visuals, HOWEVER, my recommendation is iffy, as you definitely have to be in a certain mood to watch that film. If you can stand to be horribly depressed, yet completely enveloped into a story, then check it out. If you want something you will forget in a while, then stay the hell away, and that hurts me to say, because I love that film, however, it's a valid point that is going to be in my recommendation of this film.
The Life Before Her Eyes comes to us from Vademe Perelman, the director of the aforementioned HOSAF, and this is his second feature film. It tells the story of Diana McPhee, a student in High school, and also tells the story of the same Diana McPhee, 15 years later. The dual stories are due to a horrific event, a school shooting in which she was a survivor of. She was a free spirited 17 year old with an open life, and this event has been with her ever since, even to the present day landscape of the film, in which she has a husband, a young child, and a great job as a professor. She still lives in her hometown, and all seems gold until her guilt begins to overtake her during the 15th anniversary of the horrific day. Her guilt and thoughts on the shooting effect her life to the point where her seemingly perfect life begins to go into a deep spiral. We follow the events before the shooting, and the events during the week of the shootings, 15 years later. This deeply depressing premise aside, is the film something to put yourself through?
Just barely. The film has many strong suits, mainly in the visual department. Pawel Edelman, the cinematographer, does such a great job really bringing these two separate times to life. The color palette is so stark and the colors seem to just pop right off of the screen, just making this film even more emotionally strong. It's such a idyllic world visually, that when the events happen, it's all the more depressing. Also, the performances here from the two Dianas, the great Uma Thurman and the underrated Evan Rachel Wood, are so good, and really make you feel for this character. She is such a free spirit, and that young, idyllic sensibility is done perfectly by Evan Rachel Wood. Diana was a strong person, with a sort of immature, by most standards view of the world that it seemed to come natural for Ms. Wood. She is such a stunning young woman, and Uma's character is much more reserved and "grown up", which was also done just right by Uma Thurman. With a story like this, the emotional depths that it can reach lives and dies with the performances, and a submarine couldn't reach the depths this film reaches. There's also one MASSIVE question that this film leaves you with. What would you do when faced with a literal life or death situation. The film revolves around an event in which her and her closest friend, Muareen, come face to face with the shooter terrorizing the school. He asks the two to decide who he should kill. This is the question at the root of the film, and is one that, while horribly depressing, is an interesting one to ponder. However solid the film was, there were many flaws that brought this film down a ways.
First off, this film is not for everyone, which I've already discussed above. However, there are other reasons to give this statement. The narrative to this film is not an easy one to deal with. There are many different cross cuts between story lines, and the ending make this one of the more confusing and sort of frustrating films I've seen in a long time. Granted, some of the overlapping dialogue is really well done and impressively shot, yet the majority of these cuts sort of left me wondering why, and a little angry. You want to see where some of the plot lines go, which I won't give anything away, yet there are many instances which these points are not really cleaned up. Aside from my frustration, which was really minimal, the only other problem I had with the film was the script. Some of the dialogue, especially with the Uma Thurman character didn't seem to work. Aside from a few loose plot points, a sketchy plotting, and an alright script, this is a film I do really recommend, but only when you want to feel better about your own life. The film has a Lifetime movie plot, that is elevated to solid film by amazing performances and really breathtaking visuals. Is this one of the best films of the year, no, but it is right up there for most impactful, and that counts for a whole lot.
The Life Before Her Eyes - 7/10
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