THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY-THEM. Starring Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Nina Arianda, Jess Weixel, Bill Hader, William Hurt, Isabelle Huppert. Directed by Ned Benson. 122 minutes. (Rated M, Mature themes and coarse language).
The release of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby – Them will cause some problems for film buffs who have heard that prior to the editing of this film there was a version of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby which focused on Eleanor with the caption Her and, as well, there was a version with the caption Him. Distributors have opted to release Her and Him by download and DVD and to release only Them to cinemas. For any audiences who have seen Her and Him, the selection of material edited together from the previous film in Them, will be of interest to see the intercutting of the two perspectives. For those see Them first, looking at the previous two firms might be similar to the experience of seeing a film and then reading the book on which it was based later, filling in a great deal of detail and highlighting how different perspectives can be.
One of the difficulties, dramatically, with Them is that there are some crises Eleanor’s life but it is only later in the film that we discover what they are and how significant they are. There are initially playful moments but then a rapid transition to Eleanor contemplating suicide. Her husband visits her in hospital but she opts to stay with her parents. He tries to cope, working in his restaurant which is going down in terms of customers. And he has to go to live without his sometimes cantankerous father (Ciaran Hinds).
On the surface it seems a portrait of a failed marriage but it becomes clear that husband and wife do love each other but attempts at reconciliation are ineffectual.
Jessica Chastain portrays Eleanor, in her 30s, a woman floating through life after the crisis. Her loving parents, long-married (William Hurt and Isabelle Huppert) are supportive as is her sister. She attempts to do some studies with the help of the professor (Viola Davis). James McAvoy portrays Conor, also in his 30s, who has grieved, adrift in his work, relying on the support of friends at the restaurant, especially Stuart (Bill Hader).
The film shows a number of attempts for each of the couple to try to understand the other, moments of betrayal, moments of love, moments of hesitation.
Finally, both Eleanor and Conor have some time away from each other, with the possibility that things might get better, a glimmer of hope rather than despair.
Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Releases 12th March 2015.