Things We Lost In The Fire
Review by Jack Foley
DANISH director Susanne Bier is known for her raw, stripped back approach to films such as Open Hearts, Brothers and the Oscar nominated After The Wedding.
It’s an approach that serves her Hollywood debut, Things We Lost In The Fire, extremely well and which provides Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro with a couple of extraordinary roles.
When her husband Brian (David Duchovny) is killed, Audrey (Berry) attempts to pick up the pieces, while struggling to remain strong for her two children (Micah Berry and Alexis Llewellyn).
She subsequently asks Brian’s best friend Jerry (Del Toro) to move into the family home even though she has never understood the friendship that existed between them, especially since Jerry is a recovering drug addict. But as the two come to understand each other, their relationship helps to heal some of the emotional wounds both are suffering.
Director Bier’s approach is such that her performers have no place to hide emotionally: they have to bear their souls on-screen. That they do in such spectacular fashion lends the film an honesty and authenticity that’s often missing from more melodramatic work.
Del Toro, in particular, is utterly engrossing: his lived-in features and wide range of expressions giving his character an unpredictability that keeps viewers on their toes. You just never know how he’ll react to something at any given time but you’ll be utterly transfixed trying to figure him out.
Berry, too, shines in a role that really ought to have placed her on a few more awards shortlists (that she’s been omitted seems very strange), for this is arguably her finest performance to date – one that combines anger and frustration with dignity and grace.
Bier, for her part, cleverly allows events to unfold using a non-linear approach, so that Audrey’s grieving process is broken up with flashbacks to her time with Brian (an excellent Duchovny) or his time with Jerry, thereby explaining the complex dynamic of each relationship.
She also draws two very real performances from Micah Berry (no relation) and Alexis Llewellyn as Audrey’s children, who manage to attract our sympathy without ever feeling as though they are acting or are in any way precocious.
Some viewers may find the close-up, personal style of Bier’s technique a little too intrusive, or the pacing a little too slow, but for those willing to give it a chance Things We Lost In The Fire is a passionate, even life affirming tear-jerker that boasts a genuinely life enhancing message in it’s “accept the good” approach. It’s well worth seeing.
Running time: 1hr 58mins
UK DVD Release: July 14, 2008