Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

As I went into the evening screening for the film ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’, I was fairly certain that the crowd for this movie would be rather barren, despite the free passes usually given out to evening screeners because of the rather morose subject matter of this particular tale, compounded with the rainy weather we’ve been having here in the South Eastern Michigan area..  But to my surprise the theater was SRO, packed with mostly women – one of whom sitting next to me let out this long sigh when actor David Duchovny appeared on screen.  Is Duchovny considered to be like hot or something ladies?  Maybe he’s an older woman’s, thinking woman’s type of hot guy.  Now  this doesn’t mean that anyone is going to actually PAY to see ‘Things we lost in the Fire’ as I’ve been to enough these screenings to say with absolute certainty that a person will drive a hundred miles to see a free movie before he walks next door to pay eight bucks to see that same movie.  I’ve also observed, largely through this movie, that this older female demographic (and by older I mean thirty-five plus), is sorely underserved by Hollywood and they might be wise to start making movies for these women, because they group up, make it an evening and spend some money.  That being said you may want to read a woman’s opinion, or a more sensitive man’s opinion of ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’ because this man didn’t care for it much at all, finding the film to be long, melodramatic, tedious and boring.

Our film opens with Audrey Burke (Halle Berry) preparing for the funeral of her husband Steven (Duchovny) and comforting their two children, ten-year-old Harper (Alexis Llewellyn), and six-year-old Dory (Micah Berry).  Audrey is obviously frazzled to wits end but observes that somebody is missing from the wake and dispatches her brother Neal (Omar Benson Miller) to get this guy.  This guy in question is heroin addict and Steven’s best friend since childhood, Jerry Sunborne (Benicio Del Toro).

Through of series of flashbacks interwoven with the present goings on we get to witness Steven as an awesome husband, Steven as an awesome dad, Steven as an awesome best friend and ultimately Steven as an awesome doomed hero.  So shaken by the death of his awesome best friend, Jerry has finally decided it’s time to get clean off drugs.  So shaken by the death of her awesome husband, Audrey is emotionally paralyzed, nowhere near ready to try to live life on her own.  She offers Jerry a room in her house, perhaps to have something that was close to Steven nearby, or maybe to have something to offset the emptiness Steven’s awesomeness has left behind.  Unfortunately Jerry’s presence has only exacerbated Audrey’s pain as she becomes increasingly hostile towards Jerry, not appreciating the bond he is forming with her children and becoming particularly upset upon learning that Steven shared things with Jerry he never shared with her.  I did mention that Jerry was a junkie right?  If you’ve ever been addicted to anything, be it drugs, food, drink, sex, or whatever… it doesn’t take much to send you back to your old trusted friend.  With the demons of addiction and grief all around, this family must find a way to not only to survive, but to prosper despite the void left by the awesomeness of Steven Burke.

Perhaps I was being slightly facetious there but David Duchovny’s character of Steven WAS ridiculously awesome.  If such a man did exist, not named Jesus, I would seriously consider leaving my wife for him.  This is one of the problems I had with this film in that Steven Burke was written to be far too perfect.  The only time he showed any kind of regular guy foibles was when he was giving his son a hard time at the swimming pool, and he was resoundingly rebuked for showing THAT bit of humanity, so he had to go back to being merely perfect, which naturally was his fatal flaw.  I was thinking to myself that I Get It Already.  He’s a Great Guy.  He Doesn’t Deserve to Die.  Can we move on?

Veteran Danish Director Susanne Bier, helming her first relatively big budget Hollywood film, has crafted a very quiet film shot mostly with handheld cameras and filled with extreme close-ups that I guess is designed to get you deep inside the characters soul.  It helps to care about these characters souls she wants you to get into though.  Berry’s Audrey was pretty bitchy and unlikable even before Steven died, so you can imagine what she was like afterwards.  I’ve already whined enough about Duchovny’s Steven, but Del Toro does handle the thankless role of the pathetic junkie quite well, though very little information was given what could have caused this man, who we are told was once a functional member of society, to fall so far.  Believe me, there was plenty of time and plenty of quiet moments where they could have squeezed that info in.

I did think both child actors did exemplary work considering the weight of the story, and actor John Carroll Lynch provided some MUCH needed levity as the Burke’s henpecked neighbor.  Still, I didn’t get involved enough with the characters of this slow moving tale of grief and addiction, and considering that this is a film all about its characters that would be a bit of a problem.  I do stress however that there’s nothing more subjective than ‘film criticism’, and though I didn’t care much for ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’, you may not feel the same.  And you may know tons of people like Steven Burke too.  And you might also be good friends with Easter Bunny.

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