The Life Before Her Eyes is a movie few have heard of and even fewer will see, but it's a movie I'm certainly glad I saw. Starring Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood as the same character in two different time periods, the drama explores the effects of a school shooting on one woman.
The movie begins with Diana McFee (Wood) hanging out with her best friend Maureen (Eva Amurri) like best friends do in high school. They talk about life, their future, boys and the other things we take for granted. But when they hear gunfire one day at school, they know everything is about to change. The killer, a classmate, walks into the bathroom where they are hiding and forces them to make a choice: which girl will live, and which will die. Twenty years later, Diana (Thurman) still recalls that day every time she looks at her life, her husband and her young daughter. Trapped in the past and unable to embrace the present, Diana finds her life unraveling just as she has the chance to start over. She realizes she has to face her past and make amends, before everything is taken from her.
Directed by Vadim Perelman (House of Sand and Fog), The Life Before Her Eyes is a beautifully filmed and dreamlike movie where everything, from the visuals to the settings to the characters, all have special meaning. In many ways, the movie is a simple film, and yet, when all is said and done, is anything but. Treat it as such and you will be surprised by the time the ending credits come around, and for that I am amazed by this movie that I almost returned to Netflix without ever giving it a chance.
Some people have complained that the movie is boring, and for some people I can see how that would be the case. The movie paces itself like a thought moving to the next, and there isn't a real purpose in the literal sense of the word. Nevertheless, if you can look past such two dimensional perspectives, The Life Before Her Eyes is a deep and strangely mesmerizing film that will blow you away if you let it. That being said, it is by no means a masterpiece, but it is the film that Perelman set out to make.
The performances are good, especially from Wood, who really hasn't turned in a bad performance yet in her young career. Wood, who could so easily become a teen heartthrob if she decided to be, instead continues to opt for these darker, more interesting films, and I applaud her for it. Thurman is also good, but rather understated as she doesn't get to do much more than look glazed over most of the time. Nevertheless, she places her part effectively. Amurri also turns in a quality performance.
I won't say anything further, but the movie hinges on a surprise that I won't talk about other than that it caught me completely off guard and entirely made the film worth it. Without the surprise, the movie would have been good but nothing special; with it, Perelman has created a film that few will see but everyone will remember. Highly recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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