Movie Reviews

Review: 'The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them'

By Deborah WeeMovies - 31 December 2014 12:00 AM | Updated 4:04 AM

Review: 'The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them'

Our Rating

2/5 Stars

“Ah, look at all the lonely people!”

No, ‘The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them’ has nothing to do with The Beatles song after which the titular character is named. But the lyrics do somewhat describe the experience of watching the movie.

The lonely people are Jessica Chastain’s Eleanor Rigby and her husband, Connor, played by James McAvoy ('X-Men: First Class'). Something bad happens and they fall apart, both utterly depressed.

We look at these lonely people, and that is it. Nothing spectacular happens.

‘Eleanor Rigby’ is meant to explore tragedy and loss and how it tears a marriage apart. While it does accomplish this, owing in large part to the talent of Chastain and McAvoy, the movie is too uneventful to keep audiences interested.

Considering that this is Ned Benson’s directorial debut, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ is a good effort. But it ultimately feels like a first film. It has plenty of potential but there was not enough experience in the director's chair to make it shine.

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE

The story is that a depressed Eleanor Rigby returns to her parents’ home and begins taking classes at Cooper Union. She completely avoids her husband, Connor, whose restaurant business is failing. While Connor attempts to reunite with his wife, the family tragedy that strained their marriage is too much to bear as they each struggle to cope with it.

Perhaps one must understand how ‘Eleanor Rigby’ was originally released to appreciate the artistic vision behind it. The movie was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in two parts, titled ‘Him’ and ‘Her’, each exploring the perspective of Connor and Eleanor respectively. ‘Them’ is the combination of the two perspectives into a shorter and more orthodox film.


Photo: The Weinstein Company

Indeed, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ deals with the struggles of life from an in-depth human perspective. Unsurprisingly, the main – and only – driving force of the movie is the leading pair, the original ‘Him’ and ‘Her’.

Chastain and McAvoy have no problems carrying the emotional weight of the film, and there are rare feel-good moments that momentarily lighten the mood.

The strong supporting cast featuring the likes of Viola Davis and William Hurt help the two leads to shine. The actors succeed in their display of raw emotion, and this is where the movie thrives.

MYSTERY WITHOUT A HOOK

However, it is hard to figure out how the original two-part release was more than three hours long, and yet the 119-minute ‘Them’ feels longer than the movie should have been.

Watching ‘Eleanor Rigby’ is like listening to a couple you have never met before talk about depression but they refuse, until significantly later, to discuss what happened to them. In other words, you are simply not engaged.

Perhaps not revealing the tragedy in question until the very end of the movie was intended to show human reality. The characters avoid discussing the tragedy, only vaguely referring to it halfway through the show. 

This approach leaves the audience feeling shortchanged. The main juice was the tragedy. But instead of feeding it to us slowly and consistently, it is entirely withheld for the most part, with no context for the audience to relate to the characters that way.

The film’s message on healing is also not clear and its interpretive ending does little to inform viewers on what they have learnt, leaving them with the sense that they just watched two hours of melancholy that just felt dull.

'The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them’ opens 1 January 2015

Movie Photos

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The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: Them