Danish director Susanne Bier works with Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro on her first English language film and she does it with the same skilled emotional stomping used in her Danish films.
(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)
Audrey (Halle Berry) and Brian (David Duchovny) enjoy a full life with their two kids in Seattle. When Brian goes out for ice cream one night and doesn't return, Audrey learns he has been killed trying to stop a domestic violence incident. We meet Jerry (Benicio Del Toro)prior to the funeral. He grew up with Brian and the two have been best friends since, but Jerry is an addict and Audrey had never liked him and couldn't understand Brian's friendship with him.
Audrey has an epiphany about Jerry and finds him. She learns he's been clean few weeks. She offers to help him get on his feet and move into the extra room in her house. Once he moves in, everyone benefits. Audrey learns new things about Brian. Jerry helps the kids with the loss of their dad. Jerry's life improves--he starts exercising, working toward a job goal and bonding with Audrey and Brian's kids. At a certain point, this pisses off Audrey and she kicks him out. Jerry relapses and Audrey goes after him.
This movie, as in many of Bier's films, depicts how pain and sadness seek out hope in surprising places. I'm partial to Bier's movies: After the Wedding ( 2006), Brothers (2004) and Open Hearts (2002) made me cry. They have the same formula--a woman suddenly left without her boyfriend or husband due to some traumatic event. A different man enters the scene to help out and it's what follows. Sounds basic, sappy and a little sexist but the stories are always complicatedly woven to keep your interest. The plot subtly provides essential details without distracting you. I wanted to understand what drove Jerry to become an addict, after it was mentioned he'd been a lawyer. He names the drugs he started with--just one sentence about why and it's enough. The actors are brilliant portraying their characters' raw emotion. You connect with the characters on a non-verbal level, making some explanations irrelevant.
In my ranking of the four Bier movies I've seen, this one would be listed in last place. Although good, it was the most predictable. I still recommend but After the Wedding is my favorite, followed by a Open Hearts and Brothers.
Themes: loss of a husband, loss of parent, heroin addiction, grief, compassion, family, murder
Director: Susanne Bier