And While We Were Here often feels like a conscious attempt to redo Lost in Translation from a different angle. Both films feature a lonely wife, put off by their husband's obsession with work, who meets a fun stranger to explore the country with. The major difference is that the story is told from the woman's perspective rather than a man's, and the focus is distinctly romantic, rather than leaving that angle ambiguous. Of course, this takes what is an unusual relationship and makes it conventional, a tired story about a woman wondering if her marriage has gone stale and searching for youth. There are some potentially interesting ideas in Kat Coiro's script that go against that grain, but they're all quickly abandoned for the usual cliches and tropes.
One of the few things worth appreciating as the film gets going is the character of Caleb. It would be easy to write character like Caleb as an unrealistic fantasy version of an attractive young man -- a Confident Smooth Dream Guy, if you will. Instead, there's an authentic crudeness to his persistent attempts to charm Jane. His energy is actually kind of exhausting, but it helps turn Jane's interest in him into more than just "the person her husband isn't." Blackley is also a good choice for the role, projecting an authentic scruffiness.
Unfortunately, the film spends more time with Jane and Leonard than it does with Caleb, and Jane and Leonard are far less interesting. Leonard, in particular, is not as well-written as Caleb, exemplifying a long list of bland "bad husband" traits, like not listening to Jane's existential questions about David Foster Wallace's suicide, and missing her cues to question her about her emotional state. The film's only got 85 minutes to tell their story, but the film opens with their relationship already somewhat strained (he says the wrong thing in regards to her book about her Grandmother's WWI and WWII experiences). For the film's intended love triangle to get its hooks in, the viewer needs a better sense of who Leonard was at his best, and by the time Coiro provides some (around the middle), it's too late.
Throughout, Coiro makes good use of Jane's tapes of her grandmother, which will be used to write her book, and most of the movie has a nice atmosphere automatically provided by the Italian setting. As the film shifts into the second half, however, the entire movie goes on autopilot, treating us to boring montages of Jane and Caleb that successfully rob the picture of his endearing youthful energy, and reduce the imagery to that of an instagram music video. In the film's big dramatic moments, Bosworth is flat, failing to find variety in her many depictions of stagnation with Leonard, only briefly lighting up a little during some of her adventures with Caleb. A rote and rushed conclusion is the final nail in the coffin, revealing the film to be as vague as Jane's lack of marital fulfillment.
The Video and Audio
Audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The film is dialogue-heavy and light on surround effects. Although this is true of many of the films I review for DVDTalk, this track in particular feels so oddly simple that there's really not much else to say. Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio and English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included. There are some errors in the subtitles, though -- at one point, for instance, it seems the captions should be translating some graffiti from Italian to English, but they simply retype what is already written in Italian.