A/V Room









Far From Heaven (15)

Review: Jack Foley | Rating: 2

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary with director Todd Haynes; The Making Of Far From Heaven; Filmakers Experience; Anatomy Of A Scene; Trailer.

SEXUAL and racial prejudices in post-war America form the backdrop of Todd Haynes’ inspired Far From Heaven, a glorious throwback to 1950s filmmaking, which dares to tread where movies of that genre simply couldn’t.

Opening with a picture-perfect image of the archetypal Connecticut family - children playing happily outside, and a well-groomed mother waiting expectantly for the return of her beloved husband and father - the movie goes out of its way to make things appear idyllic, until pulling the carpet right out from under you.

For the apparent suburban bliss masks a hotbed of moral anxieties, as this seemingly ‘happy family’ is in the process of being torn apart by the frustrated desires that have been simmering under the surface for too long.

For starters, the man of the house, successful businessman, Frank Whitaker (Dennis Quaid) drinks heavily to try and hide his homosexual urges, but increasingly takes risks to find fulfilment, while his wife, Cathy (Julianne Moore), finds herself drawn to her African-American gardener (played by 24’s Dennis Haysbert), and forms a friendship which sets tongues wagging throughout the community.

The ensuing emotional conundrum makes for enthralling viewing, as the family attempts to conform to society’s dictates, while causing itself more harm in the process.

Hayes’ movie, a part homage to the style of filmmaking created by Douglas Sirk in the Fifties, is a wryly observed, intelligent and heartbreaking period piece, which looks terrific and boasts a suitably rousing score from Elmer Bernstein.

The cast, without exception, is superb, with Moore the pick of the bunch as the dutiful housewife, constantly putting what is perceived as being appropriate ahead of her own happiness.

Projecting the grace of a Fifties star, and a nice line in comic under-statement (a ‘golly gosh’ is far more likely to be uttered than a swear word), she perfectly taps into the frustrations of her predicament, providing some genuinely affecting moments as her world falls apart around her.

Quaid, too, is on terrific form, as the hopelessly popular husband, who determines to treat his homosexuality as an illness he can cure, while Haysbert brings the same type of honesty and integrity to the role as he displays to such mesmerising effect as the president in television’s 24.

And while Haynes directorial style captures the intense colours and visual style of Sirk’s filmmaking (see Imitation of Life or Written on the Wind), his decision to keep everything with a grounding in reality provides Far From Heaven with a far greater emotional intensity, making the surprisingly downbeat conclusion all the more heartfelt and, at the same time, inspiring.

Both in filmmaking terms and for audience satisfaction, this is a masterpiece, which really ought not to be missed by any true fans of cinema.

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