Things We Lost in the Fire
Danish director Susanne Bier’s films Open Hearts, Brothers and After The Wedding all revolve around the fallout from a tragic and unexpected accident. Now the director is trying to repeat the feat in an American setting and with Hollywood stars.
The story kicks off with the recently widowed Audrey (Halle Berry) inviting home a man she hates and blames for leading her husband Brian (David Duchovny) to his death. Jerry Sunborne (Benicio Del Toro, brooding and grunting his way through another part) is a former lawyer who became a junkie and is now trying to go straight. At first, Bier imbues the film with the hazy melancholy reminiscent of Ira Sach’s outstanding 2005 melodrama Forty Shades of Blue or Rowan Woods’ equally murky Little Fish as the rotten dynamic between the protagonists is revealed in a series of flashbacks. But following husband Brian’s death, screenwriter Allan Loeb begins to unravel the much more conventional story of Jerry’s battle with drugs and the audience is forced to wallow in an all too familiar mire.
Despite this, Bier is still a fascinating director whose films work on many levels. Take her self-referential use of the Velvet Underground song Sweet Jane on the soundtrack: it’s a corny tune for even cornier sentiments, but revisit her 2000 film Once in a Lifetime (easily available on DVD) and the weight of importance of this piece of music becomes almost overwhelming. (Kaleem Aftab)
General release, from Fri 1 Feb.