Movie Review: ‘The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby’ Is Haunting And Beautiful

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There are some films that come along at just the right time to strike a chord with you unlike most others will. This is one of those films. I just happen to see this movie on a day where the events of the film so closely reflected something in my life that I was already feeling a bit introspective. Couldn’t have been a more perfect time to explore grief from the male and female eyes of a married couple.

I feel like I can’t give too much away about this film for some reason. I guess it’s because the movie slowly works it’s reveals of important plot points over the first hour of the film and the true nature of the whole thing has not been shown in the trailer. This puts me in a bit of a bind because it means that I can’t discuss some of the key elements of the story and much of what makes it so fantastic to me.

So, I guess I will just try my best to explain the plot without giving away what I feel I shouldn’t. The movie opens with Eleanor (Jessica Chastain) and Connor (James Mcavoy) sneaking out of a restaurant without paying. They run like crazy into the nearby field in Central Park and watch the fireflies light up around them. This scene is meant to represent the beginning of love and it works quite well. However, the next scene is a bird of another feather and it sets up the real story that is yet to come.

Eleanor rides her bike down the side of a bridge, but she can’t take her eye off the water. We don’t know how much further in time we are from the previous scene or what has changed in this girl, but it’s clear she is not the same. Within a matter of seconds, Eleanor disappears from the screen and jumps into the water far below, in what is clearly an attempted suicide. Why is she suddenly so depressed? That is what the rest of the movie tries to explore.

Connor seems to still be madly in love with Eleanor, but she cannot even bring herself to look at him. She is hiding away from him at her mothers house and seems to be wanting a brand new life. I will reveal here that we find out in the first hour of the film that it is about 7 years after the opening and the two of them have been married for some time. Then something tore them apart and that thing is the catalyst for what will shape the rest of their lives.

I’m not really sure why first time director Ned Benson decided that this was the way he wanted to go with the movie, but I respect it because it works. Sometimes hiding things is annoying, but not here. It seems just right. This story was originally conceived as two separate films that would work as companion pieces. One of those was the “His” version and one of them was the “Her” version. The version I saw blended the two and honestly  I think it would be really hard to sit through a movie that separates their narratives. I was so invested in both of these characters that I can’t imagine not having been able to come back to the other.

Yet, I certainly find myself wanting to continue to dig into the lives of these people and how they coped with their situation. I feel like the consequences and decisions that were explored in this film were so deep that I could stay with these characters for days. Some scenes in this movie are just perfect and every actor gets their opportunity to shine. Ciaran Hinds is wonderful as Connor’s dad. William Hurt gets one of the best scenes in the film as Eleanor’s father. Bill Hader continues his string of good work. Viola Davis is typically fantastic.

However, none of this would matter if it weren’t for Mcavoy and Chastains stellar turns in the lead roles. They are both so good that they will make you laugh, cry, and scream for their reconciliation. They are so wonderful together that it seems like a grave sin to see them so torn apart, but that is what grief can do to you. The movie shows us that in vivid and quite brilliant detail. It is a deeply moving film that has stayed with me for several days after seeing it. I have discussed and remember many scenes at length. Mostly because the dialogue in this movie is so rich and the themes so expertly explored that I would be crazy to forget.

Either way, I think this may be one of my favorite dramas I’ve seen in this disappointing year for indie film. It’s not a perfect movie, but it is one with so many great scenes. At the screening I attended, the woman next to me sobbed uncontrollably for much of the last half of the movie. I could also hear a number of sniffles around the audience. Which is perfectly fine. I sobbed as well. That’s why I think you should go out and discover it for yourself this weekend. I wish I could describe it better, but that’s going to have to do for now.

Nathan Ligon

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