Cinema-Scene.com > Volume 6 > Number 26

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Director:
John Curran

Starring:
Mark Ruffalo
Laura Dern
Naomi Watts
Peter Krause

Release: 13 Aug. 04
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We Don't Live Here Anymore

BY: DAVID PERRY

Based on two short stories by Andre Dubus, We Donít Live Here Anymore isnít quite the wife-swapping movie that it may seem at first. John Curran effectively introduces his characters with marriage seemingly a side note. The four-person dinner party has pairings, but their marital bonds donít seem fully comprehensible until two begin talking about an affair together.

Though these characters are married, their relationships are all tortured. They seem willing to destroy each other because they cannot fully grasp their own emotions, and the unpleasant fact that someone is destined to be hurt hangs ominously over the drama. By the end theyíve all been hurt -- the power of the performances is in the different ways they react to their spousesí and friendsí affairs.

These are gut-wrenching portrayals presented with a unsympathetic gaze reserved for directors willing to allow some audience members to be flummoxed by the uncomfortable silences and deafening screams. The children caught between -- completely unaware of why their parents are fighting -- are integral to the story because they serve in many ways as proxies for the audience. Their curiosity into whatís going on in their parents lives is punished by seeing the raw emotions that they project. That Curran tensely presents the idea that two of the children might be killed at one moment, the tenuousness of this vantage point becomes clear.

Even when the filmís manic-depressive housewife, Terry (Dern), goes into hysterics from the affair she can sense seething from every orifice in her husband Jack (Ruffalo), the annoying outburst is no less commendable than the near catatonia from Hank (Krause; not only the best actor in Sex Feet Under, but now the best actor in this performance-strong film) upon learning himself a cuckold by his wife Edith (Watts). For much of the film, these reactions have been waiting to arrive, the quickies by Jack and Edith long seeming impossible to keep secret, and their formulation is compounded by the audienceís own divisions. All these characters seem like people in our lives, and making a complete judgment on a few of them feels false because thereís a hint of need for instant forgiveness regardless of the crime. Like that uncomfortable meeting with the recently reunited couple, the knowledge of their stories together makes this film unpleasant to watch, however necessary the absolution is
.

©2004, David Perry, Cinema-Scene.com, 25 June 2004