I’ve written about The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby before, but I feel like it’s still one of those diamonds that flew under the radar and no one really saw. This is one of the most important films out there if you are interested in studying grief, the effects of loss, the healing passage of time and enduring love as themes in cinema. Heavy stuff, I know, but the film patiently leads you along and never throws histrionics or melodrama right in your face like some would. James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain give perhaps the performances of their careers as Conor and Eleanor, a couple dealing with the traumatic after effects of a recent miscarriage. Eleanor distances herself from everyone after a suicide attempt that just alienates her further and tries to find a new path, Conor misses her like crazy, throws himself into his work and gets a tad self destructive. Everyone deals with this sort of thing in their own way, and the film uses a nonjudgmental lens to observe how these two cope, revolve around each other and try to salvage the love that seemed brighter and stronger before the incident. ****NOW READ THIS PART VERY CAREFULLY!!**** Now that I’ve got your attention, this is incredibly important: there are in facet three radically different cuts of this film, each with their own sub heading after the title. Her is a feature length cut that focuses primarily on Chastain, her side of the story, and what she goes through, with brief appearances from McAvoy. The other side of that coin is another edit called Him, which does the same for McAvoy, and his side of the whole situation. This is a brilliant, very thoughtful tactic on the filmmaker’s part as it brings us closer to both characters, makes us genuinely feel the time going by through realistic pacing and lets the story flourish in a free flowing way that few films ever achieve. Now the third cut, no doubt assembled under studio duress for the lazy among us, is simply a truncated edit of both of these aforementioned versions, and all it succeeds in doing is making the uniqueness of the other two diminish, dulling the experience and turning something special into a pedestrian telling that’s just like every other flick out there. This third cut is unnecessary, pointless and should be ignored. The vitality of the material lies in the way the two cuts run parallel, how these two souls that were once together are now separated, and the energies we feel between them both together and apart. Others revolve around them too; William Hurt gives a small powerhouse as Eleanor’s loving father, Ciaran Hinds is equally as implosive as Conor’s supportive father, Isabelle Huppert is Eleanor’s mother, Viola Davis is excellent as a stern college professor who helps her through some of the tough times, Bill Hader is Conor’s best friend and business partner, and so on. They’re all wonderful but the core of it lies with the two of them, and their process from hurt, to grief, to losing each other and finding each other again, and it’s a brilliantly told story that you won’t want to miss.
Danny Boyle’s Trance is that rare head spinner that follows through with it’s audacious vision, uses dazzling sleight of hand to win us over and make us believe we’ve discerned the outcome, then whips the technicolor rug out from under our feet, hurls a psychedelic curve ball at us and makes a beeline for a conclusion that is both unpredictable and shocking, to say the least. Not to mention the fact that the journey leading up to said conclusion is a reality shattering cerebral laser show that will have you questioning not only your own sanity, but that of every character as well. I watched it with a friend who was nonplussed, dazedly uttering the sentiment “Who can ever tell what of that was real or not?”. A fair enough concern, but not really the kind of hangup you should trip over if you expect to have fun in a film like this. Boyle has a knack for bucking the trends, both in the versatility of his career and in the uniqueness found in each project as an individual. I guarantee that you haven’t seen anything like this before, and that any brief plot description you see on netflix or the like won’t even begin to prepare you for it. Read any further online and you’ll deliberatly spoil what will be a divine treat. James Mcavoy is the meek art curator who finds himself on the wrong end of a heist. Vincent Cassel is the volatile thief determind to find a piece that’s been hidden by Mcavoy, and subsequently forgotten after severe head trauma. Rosario Dawson is the enigmatic hypnotherapist hired by Cassel’s crew to help unlock the secrets of his mind and locate the painting. That’s all you really need to know. The rest is a spiraling cyclone of mind tricks, betrayals, candy colored cinematography that blasts you along with fiercely hopped editing, a whizz-banger of an electronic soundtrack that leaves your pulse playing hopscotch double time and some surprising emotional depth, taking you just as off-guard as the frequent and unforseeable plot twists. Mcavoy just continues to put forth commendable work in sublime films (if you haven’t seen Filth or The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby, please queue them up immediately), his turn here being one of the best in recent years. I’ve never been super hot on Cassel, but he holds his ground here nicely. Dawson is just groundbreaking in what is so far the performance of her career. This kind of arc is just so tricky to land, let alone carry believably the whole way, especially when there’s so much cognitive commotion to distract the audience from her work. She’s an emotional lighthouse in a sea of pixelated madness, and serves as the heart of the whole piece. Boyle is a director who is hopelessly in love with film. What it can do. How it can make you feel. The many and varied ways which it can entertain us and make us fall for the medium over and over again anew. He’s crafted a corker of a psychological slam dunk here, with an essential human core that gives all the trippy heady stuff some discernable weight. I’d say it’s a tad overlooked, to be sure. It has its audience but I wish it’d been the smash hit it so deserved to be. Imaginitive, confusing, unconventional, visually alive and crackling with an auditory soundboard in both score and soundtrack. Masterpiece for me.