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Things We Lost in the Fire(2007)
Audrey Burke is reeling from the shock of the news that has just been delivered to her door by the local police: her warm and loving husband Brian, the father of their two young children, has been killed in a random act of violence. Once anchored by the love and comforts of their 11-year marriage, Audrey is now adrift. Impulsively, she turns to Jerry Sunborne, a down-and-out addict who has been her husband's close friend since childhood. Desperate to fill the painful void caused by her husband's death, Audrey invites Jerry to move into the room adjacent to their garage in the hope that he can help her and her children cope with their sudden loss. Jerry is facing a daily battle to stay off drugs, but in his unexpected role as surrogate parent and friend to Audrey's son and daughter he finds a core of inner resilience. As Jerry and Audrey navigate grief and denial, their fragile bonds are constantly tested. Working together, however, they discover the strength to move forward.
For more about Things We Lost in the Fire and the Things We Lost in the Fire Blu-ray release, see Things We Lost in the Fire Blu-ray Review published by Ben Williams on March 19, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Susanne Bier
Writer: Allan Loeb
Starring: Benicio del Toro, David Duchovny, Alison Lohman, Omar Benson Miller, John Carroll Lynch, Alexis Llewellyn
» See full cast & crew
Things We Lost in the Fire Blu-ray Review
Sometimes powerful acting isn't enough...
Reviewed by Ben Williams, March 19, 2009
Screenwriter Allan Loeb has dealt with his own fair share of life-affecting problems through the years. As a former gambling addict, Loeb spent years of his life toiling away in casinos, blowing through money and obsessing over the elusive big win. Upon kicking his lifelong habit, Loeb penned Things We Lost in the Fire, a film about relationships, recovery and addiction. His own experiences with an addictive obsession formed the basis for the film's exploration on loss and the all-too-human need to indulge one's demons. Given the writers' own personal experiences on the subject, Things We Lost in the Fire was poised to make a stark impression and emotional impact on audiences. Unfortunately, sometimes what's exceptional on the page, gets lost in its journey to the screen.
Audrey Burke (Halle Berry) and her husband Brian (David Duchovny) are the proud parents of two precocious kids, living an idyllic, happy life of mutual fulfillment and love. Brian is the altruistic type; he spends his free time helping out an old childhood friend, Jerry (Benecio del Toro), in his attempts to kick a serious Heroin addiction. Brian's charitable nature will forever alter Jerry's and Audrey's lives, when he's shot to death in the act of defending a woman being assaulted by her husband. Unable to reconcile their sudden losses, Jerry and Audrey find support in one another; Jerry helps out with the kids, and Audrey helps Jerry in his struggles with Heroin. As the two become more reliant on one another, Jerry eventually questions his sobriety in the face of Audrey's habit of blaming him for Brian's death. As their relationship splinters, each will be forced to face the realities of life in a world where their anchor, Brian, can no longer support them both.
Things We Lost in the Fire has all the ingredients necessary to make a powerful and thought-provoking movie, with the notable exception of competent visual direction. The film's performances are incredible; both Benecio del Toro and Halle Berry turn in remarkably nuanced and believable performances that overflow with sympathy, realism and genuine heartache. In any other movie, these performances would be shoe-ins for Oscar consideration. Berry and del Toro are really that good.
Unfortunately, Director Susanne Bier's visual style and punch-me-in-the-face esthetics do more harm than good. I can't even begin to count the number of scenes in the film that would have been otherwise emotionally wrenching, if not for the ridiculous camera movement, up-the-nose zooms and other random visual miscues. It's so distracting, in fact, that it became something of a joke as I was watching the film; a joke that managed to preoccupy me to the point of having to re-watch the film a second time, from missing it the first time around. I'm not suggesting that Things We Lost in the Fire was made less effective because of this; I'm stating that these directorial miscalculations that force the viewer to become acutely aware of a director's style, rather than concentrating on the tremendously powerful performances in the film, make Things We Lost in the Fire a complete loss. It's a huge mess that didn't have to be.
I'll admit to being really put off by the film's inappropriate direction, but I have to emphasize that Things We Lost in the Fire is a veritable actors' workshop and master class on effective and emotional performances. It says a lot that a film as well directed from an acting standpoint can fail so miserably, visually. Things We Lost in the Fire is a missed opportunity and a film that had the potential to be great. Such a shame.
Things We Lost in the Fire Blu-ray, Video Quality
Things We Lost in the Fire comes to Blu-ray sporting an effective video transfer that does justice to the film's theatrical exhibition. It's not a particularly grainy film, though grain is present in a natural and non-excessive manner. Colors are generally vibrant, while the film's overall color palette seems relegated to darker tones. Contrast is well realized, though black levels can occasionally appear slightly crushed. The best thing about this AVC Mpeg-4 encode, presented in 1080p and preserving the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, is in its exceptional rendering of fine detail.
Fans of truly film-like presentations will doubtlessly be impressed with this encode; It ranks as a fine example of what can be achieved when excessive noise reduction techniques are not employed for the sake of trying to render a more punchy image. Other digital nasties are also absent; edge enhancement, macroblocking and any otherwise distracting elements are pleasantly missing from the presentation. Ultimately, Things We Lost in the Fire looks exceptional on Blu-ray and is highly recommended.
Things We Lost in the Fire Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There's not much to crow about with the soundtrack for Things We Lost in the Fire. Although presented in 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, the film's minimal sound design fails to impress. Being a dialogue-driven affair, the track does a fantastic job of delivering the film's talky ruminations exquisitely and without any loss of fidelity. In this respect, this Blu-ray presentation is a resounding success. In addition, the film's score is nicely planted in the front soundstage, underscoring the drama in a perfectly mixed and realized manner.
Those seeking an abundance of surround activity, however, will be sorely disappointed. Things We Lost in the Fire is so heavily front-loaded, that I barely detected any rear-channel activity, save the occasional ambient flourish. I can hardly fault this Blu-ray release for presenting the film in the manner in which it was intended to be heard, so consider Things We Lost in the Fire to be a successful recreation of a boring- sounding movie.
Things We Lost in the Fire Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Here's what's included:
- A Discussion about Things We Lost in the Fire
- Deleted Scenes
- Theatrical Trailer
Dreamworks fails to impress with the small selection of special features included with Things We Lost in the Fire. Eschewing the traditional feature commentary, Director Susanne Bier, instead, provides a 20-minute discussion on the film, detailing production, the script and the film's intentions. It's a novel idea that doesn't sufficiently usurp the more in- depth aspect of a traditional commentary track. A smattering of pointless deleted scenes has been included; as is the film's theatrical trailer, neither of which provide enough substance to keep interested parties distracted for very long.
Things We Lost in the Fire Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Great performances and an interesting premise can't save Things We Lost in the Fire. It's a painful exercise in directorial futility that exists as more of a tease than a truly touching drama. Dreamworks has given the film a high quality Blu-ray release; video and audio are well realized, but the film's supplements are lackluster and uninspired. Given the uniquely personal nature of the film's subject matter, Things We Lost in the Fire should be previewed as a rental prior to purchase. While I admire Benicio del Toro's and Halle Berre's performances, as well as the risks the film takes, I simply can't recommend a blind buy.
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