Todd J. Labarowski
One couple’s story as they try to reclaim the life and love they once knew and pick up the pieces of a past that may be too far gone.
*** *** ***
I first heard of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them last summer. Them is part of a 3 movie project. Ned Benson initially made 2 feature-length movies Her and Him, chronicling the relationship of Eleanor Rigby and Connor Ludlow from both of their perspectives. The two movies, Him and Her, were premiered in 2013 at the Toronto International Film Festival. Later on, Ned Benson made another cut of the movie, Them, that is a mix of Her and Him and was released in September 2014.
I have to say that it is this dual perspective that first attracted me to the story. The trailer itself seemed like almost any other story I have seen before but with a great cast. I spent months looking for the Him & Her double feature at a movie theater I could go to, without avail. So I had to settle for Them which I have just watched tonight.
Let me start of with the cast. James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain do nothing but deliver great performances. Their undeniable chemistry, even though there aren’t many scenes with both of them, and the lengths to which they took their characters gave the whole performance a certain sense of maturity and depth. However, I feel like this was the kind of movie that somehow got me more interested in the supporting cast, and that is saying a lot considering McAvoy is in this! I particularly loved Viola Davis who plays a professor teaching Identity Theory at Cooper Union in New York. It was nice seeing her and Chastain interact on-screen. I also liked William Hurt, Isabelle Huppert, and Ciarán Hinds as Eleanor’s parents and Connor’s father respectively. Additionally, Bill Hader’s performance was rather compelling and made me want to see him in more substantial roles in the future.
When it comes to the movie itself, I feel like it was marketed wrong. While the trailer says things like “The most romantic love story ever told”, I feel like there was nothing romantic about Them. In fact, I don’t even see it as a love story. It is a story about loss, grief, and family. It also touches on topics of identity and how individuals sometimes define themselves according to the ones surrounding them. And while the story line felt cliché at times, the performance of the cast carried the story very well as it was unfolding slowly. Sometimes, I even felt a bit confused with the way the story was going, but at no moment did I think it was a love story per se. The scene between Eleanor and her father as he is trying to figure out how to help his daughter who is clearly not doing well is probably my favourite. It was the first time we had a hint that there was something more than simply a break-up. Even though I know Them is supposed to be a retelling of both Her and Him, I certainly feel like it is mostly scenes from Her with some of Him thrown in for background story. In other words, I liked the gist of the story and the performances but wish I had a chance of seeing Him & Her instead of Them.
When it comes to the production, visually speaking it is very enthralling. Benson does a good job of using different visual cues to tell more of the story. I particularly enjoyed the “walking” shots where we could see Eleanor through Connor’s eyes as he followed her into class. I also loved the official soundtrack of the movie and would highly recommend it. Son Lux’s music along with classical violin pieces were definitely a good touch. I