The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is a story told from two sides – Hers and His. This is Eleanor’s side of their story. It’s a story of loss, heartbreak, love, family and finding oneself again. My review of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her after the jump.
From the moment this film opens we understand that Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain) is a woman in immense pain. We don’t immediately understand why, but as the film goes on we learn more of her story. A relationship break-up, a trauma and a retreat from the life that was once hers results in Eleanor moving back into the family home. Seeing she is a little lost with how to fill her days (and probably wanting to make sure she is kept occupied) her psychologist father (William Hurt) suggests she signs up to take a couple of classes at the college where he teaches. She joins the class of straight-shooting Professor Lillian Friedman (Viola Davis) and starts to slowly rebuild her life.
This is a story that rewards patience and observation. As we spend more time with Eleanor and her family, we slowly learn of the events which led up to her moving back home. Visiting familiar places sends Eleanor’s thoughts back to happier times, and we learn about her relationship with Conor (James McAvoy) through her memories. Conversations with her family reveal even more, with both of her parents sharing deep truths during the course of her stay. Her French wine-guzzling mother is played wonderfully by Isabelle Huppert, who is clearly at a distance from her daughters and husband, accepting of a life which was perhaps not what she planned. William Hurt is perfectly cast as her softly spoken father and their shared scenes are among the films best. Viola Davis provides some much-needed dry-humour as a university professor. This is easily one of her best performances.
Chastain and McAvoy have such incredible chemistry and there isn’t one moment you doubt their anguish or their love. Trips in memory through the blurred camera lens show a couple which once had a great love, a love filled with laughter and spontaneity. Chastain is so gentle and so understated as Eleanor. Films about this sort of pain usually turn me off with their over-dramatic displays of emotion, but Chastain reigned it in. Eleanor’s pain was inside and it showed itself in more natural ways. While McAvoy is side-lined for much of the film (it is Eleanor’s side of their story after all) he makes a memorable impact in his scenes with Chastain. The pain etched in his face and the emotion expressed through his eyes is heart-breaking. I just wish the film had let him speak in his natural accent as he slipped into it several times during the film.
I really admire writer-director Ned Benson for making this story in two films and for making at least one of the films good enough to stand on its own. I’m so intrigued to see Conor’s side of the story and wonder how my opinion will change once I do. This film is a beautiful story of love and loss and stands alone as an amazing film.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Ned Benson
Writer(s): Ned Benson
Starring: Jess Weixler, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, William Hunt
Runtime: 89 minutes