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After the untimely death of her beloved husband Brian (David Duchovny), Audrey Burke (Halle Berry) is lost and troubled. Left to raise two children she decides to reach out to Brian’s best friend Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), a drug addict she shunned during her husband’s living life. Jerry moves into the family guesthouse and the unlikely friends help each other awkwardly through the burdens of grief and addiction.

I’ll preface by admitting that Things We Lost in the Fire isn’t the kind of movie I normally enjoy, so my review probably shouldn’t be taken with very seriously.

Things We Lost in the Fire
Things We Lost in the Fire mopes and mopes, and knocks its audience’s emotions around until the finale has nowhere to go but up. Yeah, it’ll raise your spirits comparatively, but it’ll do it though crafty heartstring pulling and artificial arterial jabs. I admit that certain scenes got an emotional response out of me, but it’s the same as a cheap jump scare in a B-horror movie, or a gross-out gag in an Ace Ventura flick. It gets the desired effect, but only for an instant. I had to write most of this review out before the film was even over out of fear of forgetting any points I may’ve wanted to make. It’s kind of like eating cotton candy—it’s sweet, but it evaporates seconds after touching your tongue.

Story-wise the film works like a made for the Oxygen or Women’s Entertainment television network original (this obviously didn’t escape the filmmakers and they make a playful joke about it). The only difference is that a solid half of this particularly mopey, woman friendly story is told from a male point of view. Sometimes the dialogue, which isn’t the worst in the world, has been calibrated based on some kind of electronic response system. I picture a woman in her early forties tied up to a couple dozen electrodes, and left in a white room with a big double paned mirror watching the film on a set of video glasses. Behind a two-way mirror is a team of scientists keeping track of her emotive response and restructured the film based on their findings. I found it frustrating.

Things We Lost in the Fire
On the good side, Things We Lost in the Fire feels surprisingly authentic, even if its story is entirely artificial on most counts. The acting is uniformly good—Berry and Del Toro emote all over the place, Duchovny is pleasant, and the kids are cute. The cinematography is minimal but effective for the scene and some of the close-up and more romantic sequences hold quite a bit of tactile weight. Del Toro and Berry’s ‘sleep scene’ is probably the best thing in the whole movie, representing the film’s strongest assets of heartfelt acting and natural photographic beauty.

Video


I was hoping for an HD copy, but I’m not disappointed by the video quality of this standard DVD. Close-up details, of which there is a whole lot, are surprisingly sharp, but wider shots lose a bit of definition. Edge enhancement and noise is a problem throughout, but the overall contrast levels are nice. Sharp black and white edges, like those of close-up text strobe a bit, but the black levels are still particularly impressive. Things We Lost in the Fire isn’t bursting with colour, but the hues are pretty realistic. Bright whites suffer the most noise and cross colouration in the print, and some skin tones have a tinge of green.

Things We Lost in the Fire

Audio


Director Susan Bier takes a very light touch with her sound design. The surround channels hum with occasional background sound (passing cars, footsteps, wind in the willows and such), but mostly they’re devoted to the film’s mawkish score. I don’t know if I can take another slow acoustic guitar plucking sad chords to tell me how to feel. The score is natural and warm without overwhelming the centred and clear dialogue. There isn’t any distortion on the track, but sometimes incidental sound effects scrape the soundtrack a bit too loudly (which may or may not be an aesthetic choice).

Extras


‘A Discussion About Things We Lost in the Fire’ is just an EPK featurette, not a deep philosophical dissection of the film. The thing is made to sell the movie, and the writer, the director, the producers and actors do their best to sell it. There is some decent behind the scenes information and footage, but this isn’t a meaty documentary, and there’s a whole lot of film footage mixed into the rather brief, twenty-minute featurette.

This is followed by seven deleted scenes. These are mostly simple character beats that don’t drive many new points home, but there is an additional character and a very small subplot introduced as well (though it doesn’t go anywhere, hence its deletion). The presentation is rough, non-anamorphic widescreen. The movie’s already about twenty minutes too long, so despite some good acting these scenes shouldn’t be missed. Things finish up with a trailer, and trailers for other DreamWorks releases (including a Martin Scorsese directed Rolling Stones concert I must see now).

Things We Lost in the Fire

Overall


Things We Lost in the Fire is a big plate of McFeelings, though without the extra cheese. It’s not worth hating, and it is worth recognizing the good performances, but it isn’t something more then a small handful of viewers will remember in six months. The look and sound are acceptable, and the deleted scenes will make fans happy. I do not recommend this disc casually, but if you’re the type of person that thinks they’d like the film based on its box quote I say go for it.


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