Friday, August 28

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him & Her

One of my awaited films from last year is the Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy film, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. What makes it unique is that it is split into two parts, with each film focusing on one main character as they navigate through their lives and relationship after the loss of their son. While there is a version that combines these two films into one (if watched separately, it will clock to a three-hour run time), I have read that the separate versions work wonderfully as well. While neither was anything that I’ve expected, Him and Her compliment each other fluidly, and with the different perspectives adding to the tone and shift each piece is going for.

Him presents the narrative in Conor’s view. His life is broken, but he is moving forward. His relationship with Eleanor is cold, as seen with her coldly brushing him off. The moment we meet Eleanor onscreen, it is evident that she could not stand the presence of Conor, and after a few scenes, has disappeared from his life. Besides his waning relationship, his business isn’t going well, and he has a solid-yet-rocky relationship with his father, whose current wife had just left him. 

Like Him, Her presents the views of Eleanor. After her incident, she had retreated to her family home and started doing activities that wasn’t her norm. Her family has always consistently asked her if she was fine, and has resulted to finding avenues for her to let out her grief. It is through her perspective that we see bits of her past with Conor, and how happy and in love they were before everything else happened. In this version, Conor has almost completely disappeared from her life, only popping up in bits when Eleanor would initiate a meet. 

What can be distinguished with the versions is that there are differences with their scenes together. The same event may be happening, but in Eleanor’s eyes, they were positioned differently, and Conor would have a different attitude. The same goes for Conor, with certain lines spoken differently, the treatment from the person different to how the other perceives it to be. In Eleanor’s point, Conor was apathetic, and to Conor, Eleanor was heartless.

As each part is viewed separately, the writing shifts to the side of whomever’s film you’re watching. Even the tone of the films differ from each other. Him was more energetic, it pushes from one scene to the next, providing the narrative. Her, on the other hand, was the emotional side of things, the one who reciprocates the narrative Him pushes it to be. It showed two people handling their grief in different manners, but as a resolution to their relationship, it presents none. The story ties a closure to their own stories, but doesn’t have one to their relationship, and whether they passed their own storm. 

Still, the films present the testimony to the acting skills of Chastain and McAvoy, as neither was able to go beyond the characters they portrayed in each other’s stories. They both knew what their characters were thinking and going through, but they didn’t show an inkling of that knowledge when they were supposed to be cold and heartless in the other’s story. Chastain in particular stood out. She can play a villain in one’s story, and yet she has your sympathy when her side is played out. McAvoy plays a good counterpart to Chastain’s Rigby, though he doesn’t stand out much in Chastain’s film. Both were supported with a great cast. Chastain’s had Viola Davis, who was amazing and a great companion to Rigby. McAvoy had Ciaran Hinds and Bill Hader whom he shared most of his scenes with. 

What makes these great is the style Ned Benson used to portray their stories. However, as far as impact goes, there is a lack of conviction. There’s something amiss that fails to tie the two films together even if they’re complimentary to each other. It doesn’t leave you with much thoughts on the future of the two characters; they just simply float away afterwards. The sympathy for the characters only go to an extent, it’s difficult to sympathize for the progression/regression of their relationship because the way events are presented, the results are unclear. 

Final Word: It could have been more, I guess. The style was nice, as it clearly presents their unfiltered thoughts, but it doesn’t go beyond that. If you do decide to see the films, I suggest taking on Him first. 
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, James McAvoy, Nina Arianda, Viola Davis
Director: Ned Benson
Year: 2013

6 comments:

  1. I still hate myself for judging this entirely on 'Them', which was just dull.

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    1. I haven't attempted watching 'Them', but I liked the clarity given by the separate entries. I hope you get to watch the movie again as 'Him' and 'Her' if you were going to revisit it.

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  2. This is how I wished I would've watched this. I have them Him and Her versions saved in my Netflix queue now, but they weren't available when I watched the "Them" version which wasn't nearly as good as I wanted it to be.

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  3. I think a 7 is the perfect grade for "Him/Her". My mind wandered off through large sections of each film, but the end of "Her" (which in my theatrical screening was the second half and I can't imagine the reverse order being better, even though Benson says it's designed to work both ways) left me on a huge emotional high that I wasn't expecting. Both Chastain and McAvoy are great (Chastain is quite brilliant,actually), and you're right about the supporting cast just being stellar. By far my favorite part was how the two films' shared scenes differ, like you mention. Such a great way to explore perspective and memory. And the prologue, which is so beautiful.

    Great review!

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    1. Thanks! I don't think this could have worked with 'Her' before 'Him'; 'Him' gives off all the questions that are answered by 'Her', and 'Her' definitely carries the emotional parts of the film.

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