What it's about:
Once happily married, Conor and Eleanor suddenly find themselves as strangers longing to understand each other in the wake of tragedy. This is one couple’s story as they try to reclaim the life and love they once knew and pick up the pieces of a past that may be too far gone.
What we thought:
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is a collection of three films, each from different perspectives of a couple trying to cope with a loss and restore their marriage. The version showing in South Africa though is a culmination of both sides, the merging of two films which accounts for its longwinded story about feelings.
After an attempted suicide, a wife retreats to her parent’s suburban home, cutting ties with her husband who tries to manage a failing restaurant and make sense of her ‘disappearance’. She starts taking classes and the couple reconnect, trying to reignite their love.
The plot is quite unique, and good in the sense that it doesn’t tell us about things that happened – it shows us through the actions of the characters and their dialogue. The film is not for the benefit of the audience; they are rather spectators to the couple’s life and will have to deduce what they can from what they see. This however does not make for thrilling viewing. I had to fight off the boredom by trying to focus on the characters and their motivations, but it was a losing battle. The side characters seemed to lead more exciting lives than the protagonists and the punch of some scenes was lost to its length.
Director/writer Ned Benson is quite new on the scene, but did well with his first feature length film, garnering two Cannes nominations and screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. It is definitely an experimental film that would appeal to film aficionados, but the general public will find it quite boring.
McAvoy and Chastain are some of my favourite actors, and their choice of movie roles have been varied and interesting, both managing to avoid typecasting. Although you will be way more sympathetic to McAvoy’s sad but loving husband than Chastain’s flighty wife, their respective performances were faultless and not the cause for the film’s tedious progression. My favourite side character of course was Bill Hader, ex-SNL actor that can elicit smiles by just being onscreen. A useless chef, but a good friend, he had great chemistry with McAvoy. On Chastain’s side, we had Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder), a cynical professor that also provided much-needed humour in the drab affair. Can’t wait to see her as Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby might be accredited with being ‘a romantic love story’; it is not one for the fans of soppy romances. The love of the couple is a sobering one, showing what happens when everything goes wrong rather when things go right. If you feel like having your entire relationship questioned and scrutinised, this is the film for you.
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