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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (Him/Her/Them)
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (Him/Her/Them)
The Weinstein Company // R // September 12, 2014
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted September 10, 2014 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
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Highly Recommended
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The romantic drama category has been greatly expanding over the past few years. In 2013, Blue is the Warmest Color made big waves throughout the art cinema community with its bold style and sexual expression. Writer/director Ned Benson also has a lot to say in his impactful feature debut The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. The initial three-hour long film is composed of titles Him and Her. However, the distributor created a much shorter version called Them, which assumes a third-party perspective in order to provide a faster paced picture. If you're a true film lover, you'll give this story three hours of your day, and be glad that you did.

Restaurant owner Conor Ludlow (James McAvoy) and his wife, Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain) are a couple madly in love. After enduring a horrible tragedy, the couple must try to reclaim the life and love that they once possessed. Eleanor and Conor appear at a crossroads, which just might be grounds for separation. This ultimately causes Eleanor to disappear. Her is told from Eleanor's perspective, while Him is from Conor's.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby handles several complex themes, which will not be explicitly expressed in this review. A large portion of this film experience is viewing this world from the perspectives of two lovers, and giving any of these points away would simply lessen the picture's impact. Nevertheless, Benson successfully keeps us on the edge of our seat. He's never too "on-the-nose" with any of his points, as major plot revelations are explored ever so naturally. Since we are watching this story unfold from two different perspectives, the picture allows us to explore issues both internal and external to the relationship. Yet, Benson's screenplay takes a more subtle approach by not constantly revealing the source of the problems. There are clues throughout the picture, although many of them aren't directly stated, requiring some critical thinking on the part of the viewer. It's quite refreshing to see a filmmaker trust the intelligence of his audience. Regardless of which perspective you're watching, there's a considerable amount of depth to be found.

One of the major flaws in Them is that a large amount of character disposition has been edited out of the final cut, leaving us with a picture that doesn't quite feel as emotionally impactful as it should. Him and Her offer a completely different film experience. After spending the entire three hours with these characters, you'll feel as if you know them personally. Nothing can replace that intimate feeling that we develop once we begin to truly identify with the leads in this picture. Watching the contrast between the gloomy present and the joyful past is heartbreakingly beautiful. This is a picture that reflects how love can mold to hardship over time. While this marriage is the centerpiece of the feature, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby explores the relationships found within their families. This world truly becomes one that we can breathe in once we're able to identify with Eleanor's tight-knit family, and Conor's distanced father. Once we become entirely immersed in their family lives, you will find yourself completely captivated by the picture's sense of self.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby has several scenes that remain powerful long after the credits are done rolling. However, the majority of these sequences are the more subtle discussions had between various individuals throughout the picture's duration. However, it isn't unrealistic to expect an overwhelming sense of emotion at some point in the picture. Unfortunately, I was never brought to tears, although the film got close. This is still more than most films in the past five years can claim, which is most certainly an achievement. Even so, the final act doesn't quite push the envelope far enough. Benson has us at his mercy, although he doesn't take full advantage of it. Even so, both Her and Him offer intriguing conclusions that cause us to crave more time with these wonderfully-constructed characters. This close study of human behavior is in the form of a feature that audiences simply won't want to leave.

Without the influence of star Jessica Chastain, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby would have been a very different motion picture. She had an incredible amount of influence on its outcome, although one could easily witness her dedication within her representation of Eleanor Rigby. This is an outstanding performance that feels entirely realized. Chastain accomplishes a sense of honesty rarely seen on screen in such a story. She knows when to be subtle, and when to show her bolder notes of talent. James McAvoy is absolutely stellar as Conor Ludlow in what is sure to be the best performance of his career thus far. McAvoy is utterly convincing in his depiction of rage, depression, and confusion, without overselling it. He has crafted an entirely convincing character with his depiction of a man who is at risk of losing everything. The interactions shared between Chastain and McAvoy are absolute perfection, as the actors share an extraordinary sense of chemistry. This is surely the most convincing relationship to be found in cinema this year. Viola Davis is wonderful as Professor Lillian Friedman. She often acts as the comedic relief amongst the more serious material. Davis certainly improves the overall sense of pacing by delivering a few genuine laughs within her interactions with Chastain.

Writer/director Ned Benson has employed his own visual style with each passing segment in order to provide an impactful atmosphere. Her is largely filmed in warmer hues, as the screen is filled with yellows and oranges. However, Him is primarily displayed through blue and green hues. This greatly changes the overall tone for each perspective, as the visual style reflects the emotions that each character is going through. Benson has an innovative style that radiates off of the screen, and simply urges us to enter the world that has been created on the silver screen for us. A lot of techniques are put into use in order to create an incredibly unique piece of filmmaking. Musician Son Lux has crafted a wonderfully fitting score that ultimately enhances the overall moviegoing experience. This is a largely inspired piece of filmmaking that has all of the bells and whistles that audiences will be craving.

While Them is certainly a shorter film, dedicated moviegoers will get a lot more out of opting for the version that combines Him and Her. The opportunity to witness this story from two perspectives is a distinctive quality that allows this picture to surpass the depth found in most pieces of cinema. The film realizes that both stories are biased, making it an even more intriguing picture to study. Chastain and McAvoy are hypnotizing in their portrayals of two damaged lovers, who are fighting to put their lives back together. This film captures an aspect of reality that is rarely realized in modern day cinema. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby has a heart all its own, which beats with honest emotion. Highly recommended!

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them will be released in theaters on September 12, 2014.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him / Her will be released in theaters on October 10, 2014.

Order "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (Him/Her/Them)" now!
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