Thursday, October 11, 2007

Things We Lost in the Fire Review

Premieres tonight at the Chicago International Film Festival

Things We Lost in the Fire
(Susanne Bier, USA/UK, 113 minutes)

Two people forced together by tragedy traverse the winding road of recovery in Susanne Bier's Things We Lost in the Fire. Halle Berry plays Audrey, a woman whose husband (David Duchovny) is killed doing an act of kindness, and Benicio Del Toro plays Jerry, the man's best friend since childhood. Jerry is heroin addict dealing with the loss of the only man who tried to help him, and Audrey learns why her husband stuck around his troubled friend for so long. The opening act's flashback structure is clunky and thankfully abandoned as the story progresses, and when Audrey asks Jerry to move into the guest room, it's only a matter of time before some kind of escalation in their relationship happens. Screenwriter Allan Loeb respects the audience enough not to hammer the two together (although the introduction of Alison Lohman as Jerry's friend in Narcotics Anonymous ends up a blatant bait-and-switch), and their relationship is surprisingly subdued, seen in small moments of tenderness, candor and pain. Del Toro is great here; he has a scene in which he describes the experience of heroin with such regretful longing we're not sure if it's remorse or craving. There are certainly some problems, but there's enough honesty about the cycle of addiction and the struggle of recovery to smooth out the rough edges. -- Mark Dujsik

Things We Lost in the Fire screens tonight at the CIFF at AMC River East 21 @ 7 p.m., and opens in theaters on Oct. 19