Friday, 6 April 2007

Reign Over Me

When I first started watching, I thought this was a one of a kind film I'd have to write about on its own. A serious comedy (is that a new genre? - I just heard it used to describe an upcoming film - The Savages) about two guys breaking through their isolation - not exactly typical movie fare. Then I realised that there is a close cousin to this release in the old Robin Williams/Jeff Bridges film, The Fisher King. Both movies are largely set in the context of empty urban nights. Both have a traumatized man (played by a comic actor) making an important connection with a lonely man. Both are not good for teaching on PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) as they are very atypical and extreme responses. However, as I haven't seen The Fisher King in a long while, I'll limit my commentary to Reign Over Me.

Reign Over Me is the more serious of the two, and for this reason draws the viewer in on a more intimate level. I might as well say right from the start where my frustration is with this movie - they focused too much on the wrong story. There is the broken loneliness of the man who lost his family and the paradoxical loneliness of the man with the lovely family. Did the filmmakers not see that the second story is the more important one to tell here?

Certainly the key is the meeting of the two stories and the two characters. And this meeting is done very well. Great mis-steps on both parts. Mutual caring mixed with hesitations. Slowly developing intimacy in the typical male style of being free of much intimate talk.

But then the film gives in to the temptation of going for the bigger drama and loses the time and energy to deal well with what I have just described as the more important story. It's the story of the lonely guy with the perfect family that has so much real potential. That part of the story seems to be dealt with in a few quickly tossed-in scenes that just do not satisfy.

One can only blame a movie so much for lost potential, though, and overall it was a great movie. The therapist (who probably shouldn't have been made to be a psychiatrist as her therapy style was not very typical of that modality) is well-played by Liv Tyler. This therapist was good but not perfect, which is just as it should be. (One day a movie will be made which actually shows a good marriage counsellor, but I digress - it has long been a pet peeve of mine that Walter's and marriage counsellors are both consistently ill-treated in films. Just look for it if you've never noticed that before.) And the judge played by Donald Sutherland - sure, he's on a power trip but you gotta love him.

I thought their might be more hints of God's presence in this movie with it's title, but nothing apparent. But the music at least plays a strong role.

Good movie - should be seen and talked about. Definitely worth ***+

1 comment:

  1. I finally had a chance to see your favourite film of the year. I can certainly see how you might view it differently as a therapist. I had not read your review before today, so I was amazed how you and I focused on exactly the same flaw in the film - maybe it's obvious but no one in our film group besides me really noticed it - which is the way the Don Cheadle story is lost at the expense of the Sanders story. Like you, I thought there was huge a potential wasted there. One of the things I found particularly strange was the way Cheadle reacted when he heard about his father's death and then - nothing, as if it was just a plot device to show how Sanders reacts when he hears of the death. That mistake alone prevents me from giving it ***+. I also thought the acting was quite uneven. There were moments of brilliance, but also weak ones. Still, a solid *** effort.

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