Hopefully these two didn’t leave their Oscars where the fire happened. Especially Berry because I don’t thinks she’ll be getting one any time soon.
Attempting to piece her life back together after losing her husband (David Duchovny) in a tragic incident, grieving widow Audrey (Halle Berry) turns to an unlikely ally: her husband’s childhood friend Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), an emotionally wrecked heroin addict. But as the troubled pair struggles to bear their respectively heavy burdens by leaning on each other, they discover that they possess unexpected resources.
Yes, it’s another one of those grief-filled, sad, and lonely tales but director Susanne Bier (who made her American debut with this film) makes the film a lot better than what I was originally expecting. Then again, it could have been the fact that she had two Oscar winners at her disposal as well.
What I liked about this story is how emotionally true and heartfelt the film felt. This is a very hard film to take in because it’s bleak, dark, and quite depressing, but the film never loses sight of what it’s trying to show and say. The story may seem a bit unbelievable (honestly, why would some chick of Audrey’s stature allow a heroin-junkie around her young kids) but sometimes people only want to be reminded of their lost loved ones, so in order for that to happen they choose the next big thing that can remind them right away. This film shows how hard it is to get over a huge obstacle in life such as death but it’s also a film that shows how we can all get through life together if we are always there for one another no matter what the situation may or may not be. The film didn’t make me cry bring out the Kleenex but it definitely felt like an emotionally realistic film that didn’t try too hard to get people crying. It just told the story like it was supposed to be told in the first place.
The problem with this film that kept me away from crying or feeling anything more than I already did was the fact that it can get very melodramatic at points to the point of where it was coming off like a daytime soap opera. There were many moments in this flick that made me feel emotions for these characters and the situation that they are put into, but at the same time, too many other moments seemed hokey and uninspired. The film constantly relies on close-ups to show us how sad and upset these characters are; there are conversations between characters that seem like they should go one place but end up a totally other place; and by the end, all of the corny melodramatic speeches start popping out like crazy. There’s even a speech/story by the end of the flick that mentions the title about 10 times and it seemed over-done and totally obvious that the film was trying to have us understand where this title came from, rather than just letting us figure it out for ourselves.
The main reason to see this film though and why it mostly worked for me was the two lead performances that elevate this material to higher proportions, especially Del Toro. Benicio Del Toro plays the strung-out junkie, Jerry, and probably gives on of his most underrated performances of all-time. Yes, that is saying a whole lot. Del Toro goes through a lot of transitions with this character as he goes from being nervous the whole time, to stoned, to charming, to lovable, and then back to being stoned. Del Toro does so much with this guy but every single step he takes feels real and you believe in this guy and his motivations he had behind the things that he does. The whole time I was watching Jerry, I didn’t see this recovering heroin addict, I saw a genuinely nice dude that would do anything to make the people around him happy, it’s just that he’s been so effed up for so long that he can’t find the energy to even do that anymore. I felt that kindness and warmth come right from Del Toro’s performance and it’s definitely one of the best performances of his career and one that should have at least had him nominated once again for an Oscar. I’ve been watching this guy a lot lately and he just seems to be getting better and better and better.
Halle Berry is also very good as the grief-stricken mother, Audrey. Berry is basically channeling her role from ‘Monster’s Ball‘ but she’s still a pro at it and is easily able to make us feel for her character even though she may make some questionable decisions. Berry feels emotionally-driven in this performance as opposed to the other crap she’s been giving as of late and I wish that she would just take more roles like this since it obviously suits her best and gets more people looking at her come Oscar time. Yeah, she didn’t get nominated but compared to her performance in ‘Cat Woman’, she should have freakin’ won every single acting award!
Consensus: Things We Lost in the Fire may get exceptionally cheesy and hokey with its melodramatic trappings, but the amazing performances of Berry and Del Toro make this feel seem genuine and make a bleak story into something that’s emotional and heartfelt.