Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Ned Benson's debut film "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby," (originally designed with three alternate perspectives) is an unflinching window into both a heaven and a hell of loss, or more specifically, the emotional experience of romance and intimacy.

In this film, love is twined in adventure and tragedy.

James McAvoy is Connor, a restauranteur. Jessica Chastain is an aspiring anthropologist with dreams of a PhD. At the start, they are Romeo-eyed and Juliet-flamed as one. They get married.

Then an accident happens. One is left to make up his/her own mind as to what precisely happened, yet it quickly becomes clear that it was devastating and life changing, involving the sudden death of their infant son.

Eleanor is taking a walk in New York. Leaning over the guardrail, she hurls herself into the Hudson. Connor visits in the hospital.

Eleanor vanishes. Months pass. Life goes on. Conner has his own cafe. A bar and grill with a mediocre following.

Sadly, he has time on his hands and he cannot stop thinking of his lost love.

Connor's chef (Bill Hader) sees Eleanor on the street. Connor gets the idea to pursue her.

Chastain is excellent as is McAvoy. The two actors are the adhesive that holds this film together, smoothing over what might have been a bit too geometric, lugubrious and somber. This is a true ensemble narrative and these two especially give the film tension and fire. As a pair, they are unavoidable and compelling.

Some of the vignettes do appear dry and flat, yet this clinical condition is alleviated by some quick cutting in flashback which makes it satisfyingly like Richard Brooks' "Looking for Mr. Goodbar."

The doltish father (William Hurt) doesn't carry much heart; he is a sad sack. The mother (Isabelle Huppert) is petty and uninteresting. We have seen these identical  parent roles stuck in melodramatic molasses before. Ditto for Connor's monotone father ( CiarĂ¡n Hinds), owning a famous restaurant long past his prime with no real zest or worry.

An exception is a sarcastic and earthy professor played by Viola Davis.

The thrill of the story is in McAvoy's  droop-eyed  face, Picasso-like with tears, coupled with Chastain's lost Ophelia shock that sometimes hardens to a gray metal.

"The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby" focuses more on the sadness of loss rather than love found, but it is a film that is often first rate in its minimalism and melancholy.

In one long shot showing Cooper Union, the beams of stainless steel become a pair of scissors that can impale a heart, and also blanch a Cupid's face into shards of silver ice.

While the film borrows heavily in tone from 2010's "Blue Valentine" and the work of the late director John Cassavetes, it is impossible to look away. And it is a credit to Ned Benson that under his lens the audience is forced to make a conclusion as to what happened and  who, if anyone, is most at fault.

The final scene of "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is a film in itself with as much eerie apprehension and haunt as anything I have recently seen.

Write Ian at

No comments: