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We Don't Live Here Anymore centres around two couples, Jack and Terry, Hank and Edith who's marriages are slowly caving in. Jack and Edith are having a passionate affair and seem to love each other more than their respective partners. Terry is slowly falling into an alcohol addiction and cannot deal with her home, children or life, she doesn't understand why she can't make her relationship work and live happily ever after. Hank -who is Jack's best friend- does not know that there is a problem in his marriage, sure he had an affair with a French beauty a year ago but assumes that his wife has 'gotten over it' most devastating though is the effects that these troubles have on their children. Hearts will break, people do change, and lives are forever altered.
We Don't Live Here Anymore has so many elements that make it a good film, it is hard to know where to start, it truly is a victory of American cinema with its startlingly honest look at relationships and the causes and effects of infidelity, simmering character development and sound structure. Its subject matter is dealt with in a sensitive and positively enchanting way with highly developed focus and complete realism, it manages to make its audience uncomfortable yet compelled to keep watching and the genuine strokes of emotion hit you with a surprising amount of force. We Don't Live Here Anymore is brutal and in adding children into this web of deceit the movie adds and examines the effect that parents can have on their children, this aspect of the story is dealt with great depth and integrity and helps the movie pack more of a punch. The screenplay -adapted from Andre Dubus's two short stories We Don't Live Here Anymore and Adultery- is at times subtle but more often heart achingly in-your-face, it has a real voice that helps you get engrossed from the get go and is pierced with genuine and realistic emotion. I don't think that anyone could label this film enjoyable, it is a draining experience, but by the time the brilliantly realized ending comes along you will look back at it very fondly. I loved that the film was human and accessible it really is a wonderful production that is greatly aided by four truly sublime performances from its scarily talented cast. As Hollywood dramas go, this is one of my favourites, whever it be because of its patchwork quilt like way of presenting its characters journey or just the sheer brilliance of John Currans direction, We Don't Live Here Anymore sticks out in my mind as one of the most fascinating, intelligent and engrossing American movies in a very long while, well worth a watch.
We Don't Live Here Anymore is brilliantly edited which adds a nice fluidity to the movie, each scene bleeds into the next never letting its emotional grip on the audience loosen, there are many clever camera trick incorporated into the production -thinking that one person is on screen, when really it is someone else- which demands that you give it -and its characters- your undivided attention. The visuals are often quite beautiful and reflect the general feeling of the movie, often dark with the odd film of light; the colour palette represents the main characters spectrum of emotions perfectly and is almost reminiscent of a play. There is much symbolism scattered throughout We Don't Live Here Anymore -a red light after two characters have come to a dead end a green one when a player finds enlightenment- and the overall look is very good. Most of the camera work is very impressive adding a much needed sense of intimacy to the piece and allows the movie to be almost intimidating, close ups of tired, overwrought faces and heady flash-backs of carnivorous sex sessions add to the already shocking material. As the characters perceptions of one another blur so does the camera work and so by the end of the movie it looks completely different to when it started, this almost effortlessly helps the audience appreciate the stunningly well crafted characters by keeping them engrossed and interested, even when the film becomes slightly drawn out.
The biggest revelation performance wise here is that of Laura Dern, her heart-wrenching, fierce deeply engrossing portrayal of Terry Linden -A woman who's marriage is falling apart, whose children are living in squalor and who is having a passionate affair with her husbands best friend- is electrifying. As the script slowly strips away everything from her character her performance just gets more brilliant, she perfectly handles her complex and difficult scenes with surprising constraint and true emotional integratory. Its an intelligent performance that hits the audience with a steady hand, there is a rather intimidating and almost inevitable sense that the performance must be over the top, but Dern leaps over the pitfall by adding generous layers of subtlety to her work. She understands her character and lifts all the baggage that comes with Terry with strength and elegance. Dern is achingly talented and when she steps into this person whose main objective in life is to keep her life together she excels and truly makes her riveted audience ache. Every line she delivers beautifully, hauntingly and I was just blown away with the strength and realism of her superior performance. Very well rounded and compelling, with intelligence and ability behind it Dern has a true connection with everyone else on the cast list. A ferocious, integral force in the film, a performance that truly should of received or at least been nominated for an Academy Award, if you haven't seen this impeccably good actress in anything before, make sure to check this out.
Mark Ruffalo has never really been an actor that I have thought of as particularly talented, but in this he puts in a compulsive, hungry, dangerous performance that is at times truly reverting, the main bulk of the movie relied on his performance and his interaction with Dern -who plays his wife- and together they make a tender, intimate, heart breaking couple that transcend from book to movie tremendously well. Ruffalo is thoroughly believable as Jack Linden -which is in itself an incredible complex role to play- and pulls it off with immense ferocity and mature precision. As with all the characters in this drama piece Jack's life's falling around his ears and as the film progresses his acting gets better and better. He has a lot of material to work with and it would have been easy for a less talented actor to become bogged down by the sometimes heavy handed writing, but in keeping everything he does realistic and un-sensationalized Ruffalo remains a joy to watch. There is something very awkward and uncomfortable about watching a grown man fall to pieces and he works on that, with passion and a strangely haunting quality that does at time truly keep you awkward and maybe even apprehensive. An energetic, brilliant performance that sticks this whole production together and remains memorable quite long after the end credits roll.
Naomi Watts is a very gifted, intelligent actress who continually puts in good performances in whatever genre she decides to dip her toes in -The Ring, even though I didn't like it, she did put in good work- and every time you see her on the big screen, she successfully adapts to her character. She oozes sex appeal but mixes it with genuinely good well observed acting ability. Here in We Don't Live Here Anymore she is handed one of the least well represented characters, yet still her (sometimes limited) screen time is engaging and interesting. It is hard to know whether to like or hate her character, but she transcends the writing and displays her character warts and all. In not being afraid to be disliked by the audience we are allowed to make our own observations and decisions -this is one of the strongest points of the screenplay- As I said before Naomi doesn't have the biggest role, but her work here is great. Peter Krause plays Hank Evans -Naomi Watts's husband- and like her doesn't really have the same quality of material as some, but his performance is raw, intelligent and fully realized. He is given a chance to shine, at the end of the movie when his character is allowed to change and go through a journey.
We Don't Live Here Anymore has a solid screenplay that develops engaging and interesting characters, intimate situations and gives the performers and director a strong foundation to build on. The writing has a uniquely honest voice and penetrates -and intern displays- the awfulness of the mundane, the effects of being in a loveless marriage and how children alter your view on the world and your life. Here we are given an emotional core with a difference; it is almost like a patchwork quilt because as the movie progresses there are more layers stitched on and usually more intelligence. You are asked to make your own judgments about the four main people in this piece and it is hard not to condemn, but there are such complex relationships weaved into this story that you have to put aside many of your prejudices and watch the ever twisting plot. I liked that this piece was also about redemption, I love when movies are a journey, when your first perceptions are completely different from your last one and this writing is a perfect example of that. Dialogue is strong and believable and has a nice fluidity, and the character development here is second to none. You may not enjoy watching this, but you will be able to gain something, its tough going and occasionally meanders, but the anti-climatic, understating ending is subtle, inspiring, moving and genius.
We Don't Live Here Anymore is an unnerving, intense experience, but it also owns an engaging faith, the central concept is devastating but the outcome although sad is inspiring. I love that this is about redemption and the power of the human soul, each character goes through bad times but eventually lands in a place of enlightenment or at least gathers the inner strength to salvage or move away from their ruined relationships. This is not to say that the out come of this is simple and sugar coated, it is hard hitting and very thought provoking but not depressing as you might think. Some critics have said this stop being heart wrenching because of its constraint, but I became instantly absorbed in the characters and their journey and found watching a unique, saddening, complex experience. The real sufferers of the characters infidelities are the young children and I found the effect of their parent's problems on them quite shocking to see, this upset me more than I could have imagined at first and the whole production forced me to look at my life in a different way. I was hugely impressed by Closer -A film that examines many of the same issues- but I honestly found this to be a more enlightened, more adult drama. It relies less on swear words and sex scenes to make you pay attention and I thought the writing was even more believable. At the heart of this story are two couples who really do love each other, but have conditioned themselves not to.
John Curran's direction is intelligent and has a pleasing experimental quality to it, he deals with all scenes brilliantly and moves this story forward at a pleasing pace.
Overall We Don't Live Here Anymore is a desperately sad, deeply moving piece of film making that possesses some stunning lead performances, sharp writing and experimental direction. Its not always 'enjoyable' but it is constantly wonderfully realized and the story is inspirational and interesting.
DvD Wise the region two DVD does not contain any special features but has Aspect Ratio of 16:9 and the Audio Track is Dolby digital 5.1. The DVD also has an interactive menu.
You can buy We Don't Live Here Anymore For £13.49 ASIN: B000BY9CF4
Thank you all for reading and rating, it really does mean a lot, as always I wish you all the best. Jay