Things We Lost in the Fire (2007) ****

January 19th, 2012
Author: Meredith Taylor


Director Suzanne Bier

Starring Benecio del Toro, Halle Berry, David Duchovny


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Suzanne Bier’s gritty depictions of family life are always authentic and appealing. Her  tenth feature centres on two damaged people. Benecio Del Toro plays Jerry, a recovering addict who is taken under the wing of his best friend Brian’s wife Audrey, (Halle Berry) is widowed by his sudden tragic death.

Audrey Brookes is no ordinary housewife: she lives a gilded existence with two gorgeous kids in a high tech-house with perfect shelving. Nothing could get better until Brian (David Duchovny) is shot dead in the street.

Compared to Brian, Jerry appears to be a complete loser.  But after Brian’s funeral, Audrey wonders whether Jerry can fill the empty hole in her life and invites him to stay in the spare room on the pretext of doing him a favour. This is a cunningly-scripted piece from the debut pen of Allan Loeb.  He succeeds in his authentic depiction of how the children react to the tragedy and then accept Jerry into the family: first with resentment and then a gradual acceptance. In Jerry he recognises that his former career as a lawyer has made his circumspect and savvy about how he becomes involved in the family set-up and Benecio del Toro is well-cast with just the right amout of sexual allure and reticence.

As in Brothers, director Suzanne Bier focuses on how disaster can radically change family dynamics and the emotional fallout that ensues and she’s not afraid to delve deep and expose the emotional wounds here in all their ugliness and potency.  Jerry’s unconventional but he’s certainly got some qualities that Audrey hadn’t bargained for and Halle Berry gives a subtle but believable performance here. She soon she starts to envy the effect he has on the kids.  But this is Benecio’s film as he projects strength with vulnerability, danger with security and a personal magnetism that’s makes this film go the extra mile.

Meredith Taylor ©

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