Writer/director James Gray reunites with his We Own the Night star Joaquin Phoenix for this subtly affecting low-key drama. Erratic public persona notwithstanding, Phoenix is very good here as Leonard, an emotionally damaged thirtysomething, encouraged by his parents to pursue a relationship with Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), a close family friend who would like nothing more than the opportunity to take care of him. But after Leonard encounters his beautiful and profoundly messed up new neighbour Michelle (a top-form Gwyneth Paltrow) he is immediately drawn to her, imagining himself as her saviour, hero and lover.
Opening with a bleak scene that suggests we are in for a turgidly introspective character study, Gray quickly usurps expectation with something much less conventional and more attuned to the absurdities of real life. He looks for the telling details in his actors’ performances, and his cast serve him well, with Isabella Rossellini particularly good as Leonard’s loving and long-suffering mother. The result is a film that, while occasionally awkward in its tonal shifts, offers a more substantial portrayal of the complexities and compulsions of love in its various forms than the average Hollywood romance.
General release from Fri 27 Mar.