Most love stories these days follow a typical arch that involves meeting, getting together, breaking up, and reconnecting in the end. It’s a tired formula that is often associated by comedy and it rakes in millions at the box-officer (or at least it used to). There are very few films that focus on the degradation of love (Blue Valentine and The Broken Circle Breakdown come to immediate mind as recent films doing so), but even fewer that set you in the middle of a broken marriage that may not be fixed. That’s where this story begins.
A woman rides her bike along the side of a bridge, until she reaches a lookout point over the water. She climbs the surrounding fence and plummets deep into the water, only to be rescued shortly after. After being released from the hospital, Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain) returns home to her family, who aren’t entirely sure how they can help her. She has reached a very low point in her life, as great tragedy struck her early in the year and left the people around her at a loss. Her father and mother (William Hurt & Isabelle Huppert) try to offer up advice, but Eleanor is in a place of uncertainty and won’t heed it. Her sister, Katy (Jess Weixler), has a young son that puts Eleanor into an odd mood, as she observes his life from afar.
On the other side of the city, Conor Ludlow (James McAvoy) sulks and ponders about his love, Eleanor Rigby. He sits with his best-friend Stuart (Bill Hader) and wonders why she left him and how she could have attempted suicide. He can’t stand life without her and he’s barely making ends meet as it is. It’s revealed that Eleanor and Connor are married, but something drove Eleanor away and that same thing made Conor attempt to push forward. Their families attempt to console and understand their children, but it’s their friends more than anything that try to help them. A professor (Viola Davis) really connects with Eleanor, helping her discover what she really wants. All the while Conor attempts to find her and rebuild what they once had.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them is one of the most brutally beautiful depictions of all the tribulations and joys of love. I kid you not, the moment I got home I had to take some Advil. No, not for a headache, but a heartache instead. I also needed to get rid of the goosebumps that had been present during the entirety of the film. To say I was mesmerized and completely captured by the performances and love that I witnessed is such an understatement. I went into this film expecting to witness the birth of a relationship and how that was dealt with, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a story about repairing love and questioning if that’s even possible.
Jessica Chastain has continued to wow me ever since I saw her in Take Shelter. Since then, she’s only grown more impressive in her performances and her ability to connect on such a personal, human level is astounding. As the titular character, Chastain and her ability to emote take you for a ride. At times, her gorgeous smile and cute chuckle will have you smiling from ear-to-ear. Then, in an instant, her watery eyes and fragile voice are enough to make your heart sink. Her presence here is unlike anything she’s done before and you completely understand her emotions, decisions, and desires without her having to explain a thing. All her joy, loss, heartache, and wanting is deep within her eyes and she never waivers in her ability to make her character real. Her search for purpose and confused nature make sense for what she’s been through and though she’s flawed as a person, Chastain is absolutely perfect.
James McAvoy has caught my attention more than a few times, as his emotional range is always fluctuating in all of his films and his unabashed display of those emotions really stands out. McAvoy’s Conner is reminiscent of many men who are striving to get their girl back, but the way he goes about it and the why, is what makes his performance so special. It’s not that McAvoy did anything too wrong, but he handle a situation differently and he believes that he’s emotionally stable to get back into things. His charm comes and goes, just as quickly as his eyes well up and his frustration comes to the surface. Nothing in his life is going exceptionally well and though it could be, he isn’t quite ready to submit and admit defeat. His passion for love and repairing his love is evident whenever he sees, hears, or thinks about Chastain and his reactions are just as beautiful as Chastain’s.
Together, Chastain and McAvoy have the most realistic chemistry that I’ve seen in a film. They exhibit all the subtleties that exist within a relationship, as well as the bigger aspects that nearly every couple can relate to. The tension is almost unbearable between the two, but they also can’t deny in their eyes and expressions that they’re glad to be around one another. When they’re flirting, joking, playing, and laughing, it’s like you’re a part of this glorious relationship that’s seemingly perfect. When they’re yelling, screaming, crying, and aching, you feel the happiness drain from your body and you begin to feel their individual pain. Love is never easy and it can change on a dime, which is exactly what the two capture together through their astounding acting and the wonderful writing and directing.
Ned Benson has taken the idea of love and relationships, and has split it into the three perspectives that exist when observing love. This version of the film, Them, gives us the view from the friends, family, and strangers who observe the two. Benson explores each character’s relationship with their families and close friends, ultimately giving us another stellar performance from Viola Davis as a woman who knows pain all too well. Funny-guy Bill Hader offers up a more serious side than we have come to expect from him, but he still manages to make us laugh as the best-friend attempting to console his heartbroken buddy. Benson gets that the lovers view their relationship in a certain way, but the people around them can also see and influence the lovers too. This unique perspective, I believe, grants us the best look at how couples can go through the ringer, all in the name of love.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them is a profoundly moving love drama that completely captures the essence of a real relationship and all the things that are associated with that word. Though we don’t get the unrealistic portrayal that’s so enticing, seeing this couple attempt to repair something beautiful is even more intimate and powerful than one can imagine. This film is fueled by two of the most realistic performances you’ll see for a long time to come, as well as wonderful supporting performances and writing/directing that really make you sit down and think about you view things. I’ve not been able to stop thinking about this film and I am eagerly awaiting the Him/Her versions, as this film has got me completely wrapped up in these characters, their relationship, and how they and the people around them view their own lives.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them Trailer