Background: Danish writer/director Susanne Bier has received praise for her previous two films, last year's Oscar-nominated After the Wedding and 2004's Brothers, neither of which I've seen. She makes her American film directing debut with Things We Lost in the Fire, working with first-time writer Allan Loeb and veteran actors Halle Berry (Monster's Ball, X-Men) and Benicio Del Toro (Traffic, 21 Grams), with supporting performances by David Duchovny (X-Files) and John Carroll Lynch (Zodiac). Things We Lost in the Fire was filmed in Vancouver, BC, but is set in an oddly sunny and drug-riddled Seattle.
Synopsis: Audrey (Berry) and Steven (Duchovny) are a loving married couple with two perfect children. To Audrey's disdain, Steven is still loyal to his childhood friend Jerry (Del Toro), now a heroin addict. One night, Steven is killed when he interrupts a domestic dispute. Jerry comes to Steven's funeral and reconnects with Audrey, who tells him she has always hated him. Soon afterwards, a miserably and lonely Audrey invites Jerry to live with her and the kids, partly to help him kick his drug habit and partly to help herself get over Steven's death. Their new friendship struggles through jealousy, grief, lust, anger and regret, eventually leading to a rushed and somewhat happy ending.
+ Benicio Del Toro's rich performance - nothing new for him as a troubled loner, but still done better than almost anyone else.
+ Halle Berry's subdued performance - minimal screaming and well-timed outbursts.
+ That I wasn't totally annoyed with the child characters for once - believe it or not, kids are a lot more tolerable when they sound like kids and not witty adults.
+ The supporting performances from Omar Benson Miller as Audrey's brother and John Carroll Lynch as the friendly neighbor.
+ The musical score - not too much, not too little, appropriate mood.
+ That more wasn't made of the interracial marriage.
- Some cheesy lines sprinkled throughout - "Am I fluorescent?"
- The underdeveloped backgrounds of the characters - though the focus was meant to be on the present and not the past, it would be nice to know more about Jerry and Audrey's bad blood.
- Feeling like the ending was unresolved and a little too loosely thrown together.
Writing - 7
Acting - 10
Production - 7
Emotional Impact - 9
Music - 4
Significance - 4
Total: 42/50= 84% = B
Last Word: Angelica compared this to a Lifetime Channel movie as we left, and I would agree. It will certainly hit home for those who have lost a loved one through some tragedy, but the average viewer may not take much away from Things We Lost in the Fire, aside from maybe a closer look into the horrors of heroin addiction. Benicio Del Toro gives an excellent, chilling performance, especially when he is high, but even when he is not. Halle Berry does a fine job in a pretty limited role - act sad, angry, and miserable. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this for a date, nor would I in any way considered it a feel good movie. It's probably best viewed when you know you can do something a little more cheerful immediately afterwards. I would probably see Susanne Bier's next film, because this is well directed, but I'd like to see something a little more uplifting. Speaking of which, Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro could each do something not overwhelmingly tragic once in a while, couldnt they?