Sunday, October 12, 2014

Movie with Abe: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her/Him

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her/Him
Directed by Ned Benson
Released October 10, 2014

One month ago, “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them” was released, starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy as separated spouses struggling to move on with their lives following a traumatic event. This weekend, audiences can now see the story in two parts, titled “Her” and “Him.” These two separate films, shown together in alternating order, provide considerably more insight into Eleanor (Chastain) and Conor (McAvoy) and a fuller picture of each spouse’s efforts to put her/his life back together. Most of all, this is a rare and unique opportunity to more completely examine two characters and how it’s possible to see a relationship from different perspectives.

What struck me most about the experience of sitting down for the full experience of this double feature, which clocks in at three hours and twenty-one minutes, is that I realized that I so rarely see films more than once. Sure, I’ve watched “Back to the Future” and “The Rock” and most of the “Star Wars” films countless times, but it’s been a while since I purposely saw a film twice, let alone in theatres (probably “The Departed” and “Children of Men” back in 2006). The experience of screening these two films just six weeks after seeing the other version was strange, since I knew I could recall the same events but couldn’t remember if they were exactly the same or slightly different. And that’s what makes watching “Them,” “Her,” and “Him” immensely worthwhile – seeing how Eleanor and Conor internalize situations, and to see whose memory ends up in the collective picture.

Starting with “Her” is definitely the wiser route since, as the film’s title suggests, Eleanor has the more prominent role, and thus more of the scenes in her chapter end up in “Them.” As a result, “Her” revisits the tragedy of Eleanor’s situation and the way in which she retreats from life to try to cope with it. “Him” presents Conor in many settings in which he was not seen before, giving him a more complex relationship with his father and coworkers and a life of his own not tied entirely to Eleanor and the way he feels about her. That certain scenes play out with minor variations is not always consequential but does have a deeper meaning. It’s best evidenced in one scene where Eleanor hears Conor tell her that he loves her, to which she responds “I know.” In Conor’s version, the roles are reversed. These two wounded people hear things the way that they need to, and it’s indicative of a more widespread ability to experience moments in a way that makes sense and is bearable. It’s a fascinating insight into human nature that serves as these films’ most sparkling accomplishment.

Whether this story needed to be told as three separate movies isn’t clear, but given that writer-director Ned Benson has opted to make it that way, it’s worth a look. Those who felt lost or dissatisfied with “Them” won’t find the answers they were looking for in “Her” or “Him,” but those who found “Them” to be a powerful, mesmerizing experience will definitely want to come back again – twice – to more fully grasp these characters and their journeys.

Both: B+

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