Emotionally fraudulent was the phrase that kept rattling around in my head as I watched the latest chapter in the Interminable American Narrative of Forgiving, Redemption and Understanding. Directed by Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier (After the Wedding), making her U.S. debut with a script by Allan Loeb, Things We Lost in the Fire is the exquisite corpse of the Serenity Prayer and the texts of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.
Everybody hurts. But why must pain be dramatized the same way over and over again? See the grieving, comfortably upper-middle-class widow (Berry) melt down and throw her dead spouse’s bibelots; gape as the broken man (Del Toro), a childhood pal of the deceased husband, shakes in his sweat-stained sheets as he tries to kick junk. Marvel as the two lost souls forge a tender connection and play with cute kids. When Del Toro starts repeating, “One day at a time” at the film’s end, you’ll realize just how much the hokum of pop psychology has conquered mainstream American movies. Those of you who caught William Friedkin’s adaptation of Tracy Letts’s play Bug, which quickly vanished from theaters last spring, will remember that it is possible to make daring films about damaged people gone crazy with grief.
Cast and crew
Benicio Del Toro