Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 2014. Cinelou Films, Echo Films, We’re Not Brothers Productions, Shenghua Entertainment. Screenplay by Patrick Tobin. Cinematography by Rachel Morrison. Produced by Ben Barnz, Mark Canton, Kristin Hahn, Courtney Solomon. Music by Christophe Beck. Production Design by Joseph T. Garrity. Costume Design by Karyn Wagner. Film Editing by Kristina Boden, Michelle Harrison. Golden Globe Awards 2014. Screen Actors Guild Awards 2014. Toronto International Film Festival 2014.
Jennifer Aniston‘s sarcastic, broken-down protagonist seems to have nothing but the wrong side of the bed to wake up on for the rest of her life. The scars on her body reveal a past trauma, and her behavior in the support group that soon kicks her out tell us that she is not in any way ready to find the positive side to her situation. A fellow member of her group has recently committed suicide, which piques Aniston’s interest and draws her into the sphere of the deceased’s widower (Sam Worthington), while her smart and good-natured maid (Adriana Barraza in a superb performance) keeps her company and does her best to dampen down her worst habits. The film progresses through shopping trips to Tijuana, late-night trysts with random handymen and visits to the highway overpass where the woman ended her life, along the way revealing small details of the truth of what brought this angry woman to this place and why she believes she needs to stay there. The reality that director Daniel Barnz and writer Patrick Tobin create is part of why this film is absorbing and moving but not quite riveting: it’s almost one-note how good it is at presenting this woman’s misery accurately, making up what it lacks in tonal shifts with its honesty and integrity. There are no pat-happy resolutions and no false rescues, and Aniston’s exceptionally grounded performance makes sure you believe she is genuinely in physical pain every step of the way. It’s no Passion Fish, but her relationship with Barraza is the best part of the movie, and the most dynamic, but in her solo moments she manages to do some dazzling things with very little as well, applying the charisma that has served her so well in lighter fare to something dark and, at times, sinister. It goes on too long, however, with more turns in the plot at the end than it needs (two references to the title where only one is needed!), but it is so fine in its lack of pretentiousness (even with dream sequences involved) that you will easily allow for it to overstay its welcome.