Archive: The Life Before Her Eyes is a good film let down by an awful twist

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Because I am strange and get very obsessive about the world of cinema, I sometimes watch films for odd reasons. I chose to watch The Life Before Her Eyes because James Horner wrote the music. His scores have the power to weave a curtain of quality around a film that’s actually rather mediocre (Titanic, Avatar ect). This film belongs to this clan.

Uma Thurman plays Diana, a woman going through her life saddled with guilt. When she was a teenager, she survived a Columbine-style high school massacre. The story flashes backwards and forward, slowly making it clear why she acts so strangely towards her own daughter. There is a lot more going on here than survivor’s guilt.

Ukrainian director Vadim Perelman gets some good performances out of his actors, particularly Evan Rachel Wood as the teenage Diana, and for much of the film I was very impressed with the quality of the picture overall. But as it heads towards a climax, the whole thing starts to unravel, and it becomes clear just how misconceived the whole thing is. I can’t say too much, but a preposterous twist makes a mockery of the entire picture. What started as an intelligent, well-observed character study quickly becomes silly, Hollywood nonsense.

The film really started to irritate me when I realised the conservative worldviews that were occasionally expressed by characters weren’t just there to add balance, but were actually the film’s main backbone. Christian conservatism has its place in cinema, but when it’s as head-bangingly patronising as this, it is hard not to resent it.

In the end, The Life Before Her Eyes, wastes the talents that went into making it. The cinematography is breathtaking at times, and Thurman handles her role with restraint and sensitivity, but the story (based on a novel by Laura Kasischke) renders all this pointless.

A note on the disc: High Flier’s DVD release is a mixed bag. Warm vibrant colours shine out from the screen, and the clarity is superb. Sound is fine. However, the aspect ratio is been manipulated into a 1.78:1 ratio, instead its original (2.39:1). This means a substantial part of the image is cut off (assuming they haven’t done an ‘opening-up’ process). This is a puzzling choice and very poor in this day and age.

 

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Second year BA Film & English Student. Watches too many films and enjoys good novels.

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