I saw "The Guys" early one morning nearly three months ago, and the movie remains as fresh in my mind now as when I saw it that day. The film is an adaptation of Anne Nelson's play of the same name, which played in Tribeca's Flea Theater (which is close to Ground Zero) soon after 9/11. The play was based upon Nelson's own experiences of helping a New York firefighter writing eulogies for many of the men that he lost that day.
The film stars Signorney Weaver and Anthony Lapaglia (who also both starred in the play) as Joan and Nick, a journalist and New York City fire captain. Soon after the tragic day, Joan is introduced to Nick, who has to write eulogies for the eight men he lost that day. Shocked and deeply saddened by the loss, Nick can't bring himself to write the words that would capture how wonderful these men who lost their lives were.
Over the course of their meetings, Nick must offer details about his fallen comrades to Joan, sharing stories about the special aspects of each that he remembers. Soon after, Joan takes the picture Nick paints of each for her, turning his information into powerful discussions of how wonderful and brave each of the men were.
"The Guys" generally seems to have transitioned from the stage to the screen well. Aside from the fact that the audience is showed the words on-screen as they are typed in some of the scenes early on, this seems like a fine adaptation. Some scenes outside Joan's apartment - one at a local firehouse (with NYC firemen playing the firefighters she talks to outside) and one at a local shop - are extremely moving and very well-handled. The film is pretty static visually, but I can't really imagine it being any other way.
The movie works especially well due to the performances, which are terrific. This is one of Lapaglia's finest performances in his career; his performance as Nick is believable, heartbreaking and complex. His scenes opening up to Joan and the bond they begin to share are beautifully and movingly played. Weaver and Lapaglia are tremendous together, strongly portraying two people from different backgrounds who drop all their barriers to truly find comfort in one another. Weaver's performance is excellent, too, as a journalist who finds some comfort in that she contributed in remembering these brave individuals.
The film may sound depressing and emotional; it's certainly the latter, but not the former. In a largely empty screening room, I cried very heavily throughout, especially during Nick's speech at a memorial service at the end of the picture. It's hard not to break up as I write this review nearly three months later, with the film still fresh in my mind. Even though the film is dialogue-driven and very emotional, the 90-minute running time still moves along smoothly, thanks to thoughtful writing and the strong lead performances.
A powerful and very emotional picture, "The Guys" is a touching presentation of how special each of us are and how human beings, no matter their background, are so capable of healing and comforting one another. It's also a moving and deeply respectful tribute to the brave firefighers who lost their lives on that terrible day. Recommended.