“ Genre: Drama / Theatrical Release: 2007 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Susanne Bier / Actors: Benicio Del Toro, Halle Berry, David Duchovny, John Carroll Lynch, Alison Lohman ... / DVD released 2008-07-14 at Paramount Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: PAL „
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Star - Halle Berry
Run Time - 118 minutes
Genre - Drama
Country - USA
So, 'The Things we lost in the Fire', starring sexy Halle Berry, but here in scrubbed down and roar Oscar mood, make up and tight fitting swim suits replaced with her natural and surprisingly plain Eurasian look, but an impressive performance in the lead all the same. She didn't win anything for this but you have to admire her flexibility as an actress, one of the most beautiful women in the world with an incredible figure to match, willing to compromise that image and payday by stretching herself with gritty scripts like this one. It's been ten years since her surprise and somewhat political Oscar win for Monsters Ball that would made her the first ever black female winner of the Best Actress category and so why not have ago again with something chunkier than being 007s main squeeze.
The film is based on the book of the same name and pairs Berry up with the plank of wood that is David Duchovny, Fox Mulder in everything he does. Because it had no political connotations around race the film festivals showed no real interest in it and it dribbled on to video pretty quickly, rather unfair as it's a solid and intelligent piece that refreshingly doesn't end up as being yet another 'worthy' indie film from America.
Halle Berry ... Audrey Burke
Benicio Del Toro ... Jerry Sunborne
David Duchovny ... Brian Burke
Alexis Llewellyn ... Harper Burke
Micah Berry ... Dory Burke
John Carroll Lynch ... Howard Glassman
Alison Lohman ... Kelly
----The Plot ---
Needy and selfish middle-class housewife Audrey Burke (Berry) has the perfect life. Her handsome husband Brian (Duchovny) has built her the dream home and they have two gorgeous kids, Dory (Micah Berry, no relation) and Harper (Alexis Llewellyn), mum happy to play housekeep and dad enjoying a sparkling career. But the film begins with tragedy as we learn that Brian has been murdered after trying to break up an arguing couple, shots fired and Brian no more. At that funeral we meet Brian's best friend and recovering drug addict Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), who used to be a successful lawyer but threw it all away, unaware of Brian's death until Audrey's brother Neal (Omar Benson Miller) extracts him from his shabby apartment and drunken stopper to break the terrible news, Brian the only guy who ever gave Jerry the time of day.
Jerry is a handyman at the local drug rehab centre and it's decided with Audrey that he can stay in the family garage to help around the house and keep mum and the kids company at a time of grief. There had been a recent fire in the garage before Brian's death and so Jerry's handyman skills could come in handy.
Here he gets to know them better and grows a bond with Brian's dad Howard (John Carroll Lynch). Its clear Audrey doesn't much care for Jerry but feels a connection with him and so a conduit for that grief. Jerry has promised to clean himself up in return and soon bonds with the kids too. And when he meets a pretty girl at rehab meetings, Kelley (Alison 'the well behaved' Lohman sister), his life seems to be back on track, a healing of sorts for both Audrey and Jerry.
Howard : "So how come Brian never mentioned you?"
Jerry : "Because I'm a recovering heroin addict maybe".
Howard : "I hate my wife. I mean, since we're sharing"...
There is no sexual attraction between them and both seem to be getting something good from the set up. But it becomes clear to Jerry that his relationship with Audrey is more complicated and her motives unclear, and when Audrey makes her feelings clear to Jerry its not long before he is back to his old haunts in search of another kind of happiness.
Audrey: "What's heroin like?"
Jerry: "Do you hear that expression being kissed by God? "
Shot in a flashback style so we can learn more about the relationship between Audrey and Brian for more of both actors screen time, the film concentrates on that man-woman relationship thingy where women become more dependent on men as they conceded responsibility to them, men designed to do the things women cant or wont. Power in a relationship is always conceded not earned.
It's a complex emotional drama that is well written and smart although the gloss taken off some by the gloss put on it, if you see what I mean, the cast and kids just too attractive and perfect for their apparent dysfunctional roles. The charismatic and engaging Benicio Del Toro is the best he has been for while but a rather chunky heroine addict, all the ones I have seen selling the Big Issue always shy of eight stone, the best way to tell if a Big Issue seller is genuine or not. Duchovny is yet again the thinking woman's crumpet here and the films token totty, usurping Berry from that role for once.
Some of the detail is rushed over in search of the films tempo, the murder scene very hammy and Columbo. But, like I said, the script is good and the films ideas interesting and emotive, something for grown ups to think about. The $16 million budget returned only three million back though, neither the male James Bond fans nor Monsters Ball audience showing much interest in this. But it's better than such a small audience so we can only presume poorly promoted and perhaps not sentimental enough for an American audience.
The mixed race couple element is still tip toes on creaking ice in Hollywood for some reason and the fact this is not a story about race like Monsters Ball very much was may have detracted from it to that bigger audience appeal. The film called The Help about black maids and their white families back in the day is going down a storm in America and there is a big audience for that type of film. This just needed some of that race tension to tighten it up. Berry is effectively playing a white Middle America housewife role and so the race angle wasted and pointless. But that aside it is her best performance to date and if it had of been about race then she would have been in with a shout for her second Oscar. Keep up the good work girl.
The Los Angles Times - "Though it is erratic and can come off as manufactured, this film has the gift of gathering strength as it goes on. It harnesses the talents of stars Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro in ways that ultimately make us sit up and take notice"
DVD Town - "You can't manufacture honest sentiment.... So, I'd have to call the movie a noble miss".
The Times -"Its deliberate pacing may put some viewers off, as will the bleakness of the subject matter, but it's worth seeing, mostly to soak up the complex shades of Del Toro's performance"
The Daily Tribune -" Where the film's ambitions crumble is in its avowed refusal to make its audience too uncomfortable".
Imdb.com - 7.2 out of 10.0 (14,651 votes)
Metacritic.com - 64% critics approval rating
Rottentomatos.com - 64% critics approval rating
Radio times Film Year Book - 2/4
Leonard Maltin's Film Year Book - 3/4
note: also appears on my film review site, ShaunMunro.co.uk!
Halle Berry is a great actress when she wants to be, yet has encountered a distinct poverty of meaty roles in recent years, instead opting for high-budget, high-concept studio pictures. Alas, "Things We Lost in the Fire" is something of a salvation for the actress who performed so memorably in Monsters Ball. Alongside the ever-brilliant Benicio Del Toro, Berry reminds us here that she can add dimension to a character, herein conveying an unrestrained sense of heartbreak with maturity and fiery zest.
The central theme of the film is coping, and moreover, surmounting one's problems, as Audrey Burke (Berry) experiences the irredeemable loss of her husband, Steven (Duchovny). Audrey is struggling to deal with her loss, even neglecting to let people know of the tragedy. The picture Bier paints is a highly authentic depiction of the fallout surrounding catastrophic loss, and amazingly, she also succeeds in engaging the viewer.
Jerry Sunborne (Del Toro), a long-time friend of Steven's, is a picture of depravity himself - a Heroin addict, yet, particularly in his interactions with Steven and Audrey's children, is a rather likable fellow. Del Toro narrowly manages to sidestep the clichéd "addict with a heart of gold" routine, remaining just distant enough to rouse a little unease.
At Steven's wake, and through a series of flashbacks, we gather the impression, at least at first, that he was nothing short of a Saint, and enjoyed a flawlessly happy family life. Fortunately, Bier employs the good sense to add layers to this dynamic, introducing a conflicting force, who happens to be Jerry himself. Steven was relentless in helping Jerry quit drugs, even visiting him at the sacrifice of his own family's happiness. In his life, Steven was wedged firmly between his decades-long friendship, and his family - it's a conundrum which spins the web that the rest of the film clings to.
Naturally, the death of Steven, the only stabilising force in his life, hits Jerry hard, violently knocking him off of the wagon. Furthermore, this occurs at a time at which Audrey, who seems to have few, if any friends, needs an emotional crutch - her family life is extremely strained, and she needs Jerry as an outlet, yet he is himself battling the uphill struggle of recovery.
In what is a materially strange spin, Audrey asks Jerry to move into the house, and in an even more bizarre spin, Audrey isn't offering it as charity - she is in fact taking charity from Jerry, who offers his company to help rebuild her life, and vicariously, rebuild his own.
As such, Bier, with all the subtlety of a mortar strike, postulates the possibility of Jerry becoming a surrogate patriarch to this now-fractured family unit. Thus, there is the standoff - two down-and-outters attempting to rebuild their lives, whilst one battles a drug addiction and the other the constrictions of raising a family.
The relationship between Jerry and Audrey is an incredibly curious one - she almost seems to use him at times, at one point quite literally utilising him as a substitute for her husband. Does Jerry feel as though he's betraying his deceased friend? Even though there's little-to-no sexual tension, the situation is unabatedly awkward, and it's clear what is ticking over in Jerry's mind. Curiously, though, Audrey brings Jerry his clothes, as well as breakfast every morning, and perhaps she feels the need to fill the void left by her widowdom.
The idea of Jerry serving as a surrogate is posited in very clear terms - Bier fortunately hazards no attempt to shy away from or disguise this fact, and the viewer feels less insulted as a result. Naturally, this angle forms the film's central, and ultimate conflict - Jerry simultaneously fights his habit and tries his hardest with Audrey's children, even accidentally upstaging his departed friend in one instance.
This dynamic is a test of the cohesiveness of this new, synthesised unit - Audrey is grief-stricken and angry, and this battles against Jerry's genuine attempts to help her cope with the transition of her new life, and as such aid himself. Together they stand, and divided they fall - Audrey's growing ambivalence causes Jerry to lose his own grip, and this co-dependence is almost systematic in its prevalence - one falters and the other does so almost immediately.
As cinematically accomplished as Things We Lost in the Fire Is, as the situation becomes more depraved, Bier manages to retain a certain grittiness, with our characters briefly foraying into the seedy, drug-addled underbelly of their town. Del Toro's performance is equally gritty and authentic as he attempts to once-and-for-all conquer his demons - his Jerry is as heartbreaking as he is well-acted.
The film does begin to lose its steam in the final scenes, namely with an overly-sentimental dinner scene, yet steamrolls this with one of marked intensity, showcasing Berry's acting chops at their most mature and schooled, thus allowing much-needed catharsis for her character.
By its end, Things We Lost in the Fire does become too bogged down in predictable sentimentality, but in the overall scheme of the narrative, it never takes a melodramatic, or predictable sexualised approach to the friendship between Jerry and Audrey. This is a story of friendship, overcoming demons, and coping with loss - nothing more sensationalised than that.
An Oscar contender this film should not be considered, yet it still retains a noted authenticity, as well as allowing Berry in particular to deliver one of the finest acting roles of her career. This film is compelling thanks to its avoidance of contrivances that lesser films would have exploited, and should be commended for that.
Director: Susanne Bier
Writer: Allan Loeb
Released: 14th July, 2008 (DVD)
Halle Berry (Audrey Burke)
Benicio Del Toro (Jerry Sunborne)
David Duchovny (Brian Burke)
Alexis Llewellyn (Harper Burke)
Micah Berry (Dory Burke)
When Audrey Burke's husband, Brian, is killed while attempting to stop a husband from beating his wife, she is devastated. Brian was her entire world, one that even their children cannot fill - without him she is lost. Attempting to find a reason for life outside her own little world, Audrey attempts to help Brian's best friend, Jerry, who is a drug addict.
Inviting Jerry into her home, she begins to understand why her husband always refused to give up on Jerry - she sees the goodness within Jerry, the overwhelming kindness, and slowly but surely, as Jerry overcomes his addiction, he becomes the one helping Audrey and the children to cope without Brian.
'Things we Lost in the Fire' is an incredibly powerful drama, and overwhelmingly thought-provoking. It is emotionally charged and raw, and at times so very painful to watch, that you can't help but pause the movie in order to take a deep breath.
The story is simple, so very beautiful yet so incredibly sad... and the characters possess such depth, such 'authenticity', that it is easy to forget that they are simply characters.
Audrey Burke, beautifully played by Halle Berry, is a strong-willed no-nonsense woman, stubborn and sometimes deplorably harsh and unforgiving, but too is she unwavering in her affection... she adores her husband and her children... they are the centre of her universe. Without them she is... nothing. Halle Berry gives substance to her character, which is a necessity for this type of movie because it relies heavily on raw 'human' emotion. This is the type of movie that focuses on the very best within humans... and the very worst. There is no in-between... this is an all or nothing.
Benicio Del Toro, who plays Jerry Sunborne, is the perfect leading man. The lovable drug-addict manages to win the viewer's heart, and as he struggles through his addiction, so does the viewer struggle right alongside him, forever cheering him on. When he manages to overcome his addiction, there is a sense that everything, finally, is right with the world, but 'real' life has a way of intruding, even in movies, and Jerry's addiction finds a way to pull him back down into the gutter. Jerry's decline, after having proven himself to be such a true friend to Audrey and the children, will become Audrey's test to prove that she was worthy of Jerry's friendship.
Although this movie is beautifully acted and dramatically charged, it isn't for everyone. It does tend to drag at times, and there are scenes that might be disturbing to some. There is no action, no adventure, definitely no comedy, and although there is a promise of romance, it is only a promise and is never fulfilled. This film is pure drama... nothing but drama.
Although Jerry feels drawn to Audrey, after all, she is a beautiful woman, there is an invisible boundary that separates them... his name is Brian Burke, Audrey's deceased husband. Regardless that the viewer might hope that something will happen, this movie isn't about love... it's about loss - and how to deal with it. Love doesn't always have to be the answer, and this movie proves it. Friendship can be a powerful thing, just as powerful as true love, and just as beneficial.
The writer and director have focused the movie's energy on friendship and understanding, and have brought together two fragile main characters that are mourning the same loss but in different ways. The scenes are somewhat disjointed, going back and forth through time to show how Brian touched the lives of others, but ultimately, the story is all about life after Brian, and how his passing has affected those around him.
Audrey and Jerry have absolutely nothing in common, in fact, Audrey doesn't even like him, and although they are more often than not at odds, what originally binds them is the same thing that will keep them apart - Brian - he is the only thing they have in common... they both loved him. When Audrey's feelings for Jerry begin to change, and Jerry's attraction to her begins to take centre-stage, it is their love for Brian and their memories of him that will keep them apart.
'Things we Lost in the Fire' is a solid drama, but it is also somewhat depressing. The acting may be brilliant, the story darkly beautiful, but it is nonetheless a disturbing movie that delves into an extremely sad subject... the loss of a loved one. The atmosphere of this movie is heavy, somewhat suffocating, and it provokes thoughts that are, needless to say, equally oppressive.
Although I recommend this movie, as stated above, it isn't for everyone. Those who like action, adventure, comedy, sci-fi and horror should abstain because you will find none of these in this movie. Only those who like thought-provoking movies will be well-served with this one.
~~~ Synopsis ~~~
Audrey's husband, the love of her life, has been shot and murdered. The movie follows Audrey as she tries to overcome the tragedy by inviting her dead husbands best friend, Jerry, to come and live with her and her family. Jerry is a newly reformed drug addict.
Over the course of the movie we watch as Jerry starts to turn his life around, becoming a key member of the family and helping them grieve. Audrey begins to build resentment for Jerry as he gets too close to the family.
Will Jerry stay clean? Will Audrey be able to overcome her resentment to help him and finish grieving?
From what I have written, you would not be far off in thinking this story seems basic and simple.
~~~ My Thoughts ~~~
The first part of the movie is told in flashback, beginning with a funeral and then the explanation of how Brian's death occurred. This part of the movie took over 30 minutes completing at the point of Brian's murder. It seems as if this is supposed to be some sort of character building, attempting to explain the relationships of the 3 characters. For me it succeeded in pointing out the blindingly obvious that Audrey is lovingly married to Brian. Not by the great acting as I explain later.
The movie does not seem to have any direction. Many a scene I spent wondering why it was included and what the point of the movie was generally. The pace of the movie is very slow. Over an hour is given to setting the scene of the story As in my summary, this was an A-List cast assembled for a B-List story and neither cast member was able to act to their abilities.
At times some of the scenes are cringeworthy. When alive, Brian used to hold Audrey in a particular way as she went off to sleep. The position is one where she is lying on her side being held by Brian and he puts his leg over her and pulls her ear in a vigorous massaging action. Following his death, Audrey could not sleep and asks Jerry to perform the same on her so she can sleep. It is almost like a strange sexual encounter but for me it left nothing but a sour taste in my mouth.
80 minutes into the film, I believe the story gets going. For my liking that is way too long. I like a movie that engages the viewer from pretty much the start.
However, that aside it tails off again and heads back to the slow pace it started with.
Finally, I don't see how the title relates to the movie. Sure there was a fire in there garage, but it was referred to and never shown. I can't even work out if it is some sort of abstract titling...hmmmm.
~~~ Cast & Characters ~~~
Audrey is the main character of this movie. Halle Berry plays the widow who is left to deal with the aftermath of her husbands shooting. For most of the movie, Audrey is portrayed as mainly dazed and confused. The flashbacks with her husband, played by David Duchovny, are quite dull and there is no chemistry between the pairing.
Jerry is a former lawyer and reformed drug addict (clean for 21 days) and best friend of the deceased husband. It is unclear what prompted Jerry to turn to drugs, but he is supposedly reformed, broke and picks up people's unfinished cigarette butts. Played by Benecio Del Toro, I have never seen any of his other movies. I have heard about this actor and he has a stellar movie list, The Usual Suspects, Traffic. I do not think he will be best remembered for this movie. He plays the character in primarily a drugged state as you'd expect, living life aimlessly without any direction. Surprisingly the character has very little dialogue.
Alison Lohman (Matchstick Men) has a small part as another drug addict, Kerry and object of Jerry's affection. Now we know that reforming drug addicts are not supposed to be in a relationship with each other but this as this is Hollywood, the predictability does not falter here.
The lovely David Duchovny play the deceased husband, whom we mainly see in flashback. There is no real acting required from David Duchovny as the storylines involving him are very basic. Nevermind, he was nice to look at whilst watching a dull movie. The only shame is he is only briefly on the screen in each scene.
There are no other notable mentions.
Halle Berry ... Audrey Burke
Benicio Del Toro ... Jerry Sunborne
David Duchovny ... Brian Burke
Alexis Llewellyn ... Harper Burke
Micah Berry ... Dory Burke
Alison Lohman ... Kelly
~~~ Conclusion ~~~
As you can guess I did not enjoy this movie. The movie was very slow and the story was not engaging. There was no depth to the characters and a stellar cast list could not save this movie.
It is lucky I did not buy this movie as I received it as part of my rental subscription. On my rental site the movie is only rated as 3 stars out of 5. In fact some of the other reviews I have read say that the flashbacks do not work and only succeed in stopping the flow of the movie. I have to agree.
Don't waste your money on buying this, but more importantly, don't waste your time.
~~~ Other Information ~~~
Released on: 14 July 2008
Directed by: Susanne Bier
Run time: 119 mins
Thank you for reading. This review may be posted on other sites by me.
© jupiter28 2008
(film only review)
This is a first for me, I am reviewing a film I have just seen on board a long haul flight. Enthusiastic?
...Yes, I am.
I can't recall ever being so completely compelled throughout an in-flight film, than I was with 'Things We Lost in the Fire'. In the middle of interruptions from cabin crew ('tea?, coffee? Chicken, beef or something looking like lasagne?...') I never lost a moment of what was going on in this film. I was hooked.
I was very surprised at the themes and issues raised. I was first attracted to it, as I thought it may be based on a book that I was curious about (it turns out I was wrong and they're two completely different things), and it featured an interesting cast, including Halle Berry (Monster's Ball) and David Duchovny (X-files). This, along with 8 hours to kill, made it my choice of viewing pleasure whilst in the air. The film also stars Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects), who I wasn't very familiar with, so the opportunity to check him out as actor, also interested me.
My in-flight film guide describes this film thus: "In one fell swoop, Halle Berry pulls her career back in track, putting in a superb performance as Audrey, who shares the grief over losing her husband with his best friend (Del Toro - also magnificent). A powerful, mesmerizing film." I was rather surprised by this description, as yes, that does indeed happen. But I also found it somewhat misleading as what an audience might expect.
In my opinion, this film is superb. The acting is superb. The story is superb. The cinematography is stunning and beautifully shot. However, to summarise this film as being about sharing grief, is only really giving the audience a fraction of the information.
The film starts (and sets itself up) as jumping from present day, to the past, in short interludes to fill us in on back story. We learn that Audrey (Berry) doesn't approve of her husband, Brian's (Duchovny) friendship with Jerry (Del Toro), as he is a drug addict. They have been friends since school, and Brian has never given up on him. He sees the good in people. It's not until Brian's death, that Audrey and Jerry, begin to forge a friendship out of grief and loss. Audrey sees how good Jerry is with their two children (who are extremely well cast, the children's ability to act so naturally and honestly, is dare I say, inspiring) and takes a chance on him by helping him in his recovery from drugs. As one may aspect, the path isn't incredibly smooth and hurdles get in the way. There are some disturbing scenes of the affects that drugs have on Jerry. I can't find the words to explain how impressed I was by Del Toro in this film, the scenes with him trying to get off heroine are horrifying, showing grim and gritty reality. However, throughout, Audrey stays adament that she wants to take up the mantle of the supportive friend that her late husband was, she insists on helping him.
Jerry's fellow NA (narcotics anonymous) goer, is also there as a crutch for him. And it is her that shares her own personal feelings about loss with Audrey, that in turn, helps Audrey to help Jerry. To me, this film is more about acceptance and human support, than it is about the death of a close one.
This film has a truly humbling theme, superbly acted by everyone. Direction by Susanne Bier is also first class. In some ways, and I can't really understand why, but it reminded me of Paul Haggis' Crash. I think the way, we follow Audrey's journey from dispise towards someone, who suffers from an illness that she doesn't understand. And it's not until she takes that step to understand, that she begins to feel for him and realize that her antisocial attitude towards Jerry, was both ignorant and unfair.
If you like light and fluffy films, I wouldn't recommend this. If you like films that make you think, contain gritty (and not always happy) storylines and are stunningly acted, directed and written, this is one for you.
I'm off to find a 'gin and tonic' toting stewardess.
For more info go to: www.thingswelostintheifre.com
Or imdb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0469623
Thanks for reading :)
© MarcoG 2008
(also on other sites)