Originally presented as a two part anthology detailing a couples’ beginning, middle and end, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them combines both his and hers perspective to present a more realised, balanced narrative. Now this isn’t anything shockingly brilliant or inventive, but it still maintains an originality that has not been seen for some time, mainly due to the raw and honest performances by the films leads Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy. In fact, this is probably one of the few films this past decade that represents the concept of love and loss in all its wicked beauty.
Soul mates Connor Ludlow (McAvoy) and Eleanor Rigby (Chastain) had the picture perfect relationship, until a shocking event that devastates them both leaves them broken and alone. We learn through flashbacks what happened that forced them apart, and what drew them to each other in the first place. Connor decides to do some soul searching and open a restaurant with his best friend Stuart (Bill Hader) and is constantly seeking the approval of his stoic father Spencer (Ciaran Hinds). On the flip side, Eleanor moves back home with her parents (William Hurt & Isabelle Huppert) and starts taking classes with the emotionally sympathetic straight talking Professor Friedman (Viola Davis). Separately it’s easy to see the longing each has for the other, but the relationship is a too painful reminder of the past and the tragic events that unfolded. But like all star crossed lovers before them, the good almost always outweighs the bad.
Stories about relationships and love and passion and hate need leads that can carry and convey that to their audience, without seeming forced or fake. McAvoy and Chastain are absolutely brilliant at portraying this, and not once do you find yourself questioning why did you say this? Or do that? The emotional fragility is ever present and in your face, with Chastain in particular reminding us yet again why we should all bow down to her dramatic prowess and all round natural talent. She just oozes this magnetism that draws you in to every word said, which added to the allure of Eleanor Rigby. McAvoy too demands attention and quite frankly this is his best work yet, immersing him in every emotion Connor feels, to the point that it felt like watching real life footage and not a scripted narrative.
This is Writer/Director Ned Benson’s first foray into feature films, having only done short films in his career thus far. Weaving together a magical chronicle of two peoples’ relationship is not the easiest of tasks, but Benson has proven himself to be a wizard at doing so. His characterisation of the leads is on point and never wavers, staying on course through the entirety of the film and keeping them relevant and fascinating enough to hold interest. The ironic thing about all that is the simplicity of it, having a very ‘less is more’ attitude about the whole thing, and letting the cast do their thing without overpowering them in any way.
Unlike most relationships, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them stays on course and leaves you with little doubt as to where it’s headed. There aren’t any car chases or Captain Iron Hulks killing bad guys and throwing out one liners every two seconds, which is always a welcome change of pace. Remember this movie guys, because next awards season it’s guaranteed to be mentioned left, right and centre.
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