The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
Directed by Ned Benson
Released September 12, 2014
Don't let this film's title fool you. It's not about someone going missing, being lost or kidnapped, or anything like that. It's nowhere near as dark as the similarly-titled "The Disappearance of Alice Creed," and has very little to do with the Beatles. It does, however, showcase the distancing between two people, as Eleanor (Jessica Chastain) separates herself from her husband, Conor (James McAvoy), effectively disappearing from his life. That process is a mesmerizing, highly emotional one, wonderfully told in this affecting and immensely human film.
This story begins from a point of complete joy and bliss, as Conor reveals to Eleanor in the middle of a date that he cannot pay for dinner. She responds by casually taking off her shoes and walking out of the restaurant. When he runs after her as he is pursued by an angry waiter, the two reunite in the park and share an intimate and passionate moment. That ecstasy and closeness is contrasted greatly by the loneliness visible on almost every successive moment as Conor tries to find his way back to the elusive woman he used to call his wife following a tragic event whose nature is revealed midway through the film.
“The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” splits its time between its two protagonists, showcasing their individual lives as Eleanor reconnects with her family in Connecticut, portrayed by Jess Weixler, Isabelle Huppert, and William Hurt, and Conor runs his New York City restaurant with the help of Bill Hader’s chef and confidante. We see mostly what they are like apart rather than together, which makes the moments they do share on screen absolutely electric. This story, “Them,” will be released as two separate films, “Him” and “Her,” next month, designed to showcase their relationship from each perspective. After this start, those entries should be very worthwhile.
It’s difficult to describe the range of emotions captured and channeled by this film’s two stars. Both are actors whose entrance into cinema was defined by suddenly being everywhere, taking on a number of diverse high-profile roles within the first few years of making it big. Chastain, who earned Oscar nominations for being perky in “The Help” and determined in “Zero Dark Thirty” here delivers a focused and passionate performance as a woman who needs desperately to disconnect from her world in order to find some sort of peace. McAvoy, who has been the romantic lead in “Atonement” and other films and is no stranger to being pushed away by the woman he loves, is genuine, affable, and dedicated, never losing faith in the romance he longs to reignite. Watching these two on screen is an incredible journey, and the film is at its best when their paths do intersect. It’s an experience that’s at times devastating, inspiring, heart-wrenching, beautiful, and unforgettable.