Opening 10 Nov 2005
Writing credits: Dan Harris
Principal actors: Sigourney Weaver, Emile Hirsch, Jeff Daniels, Michelle Williams, Kip Pardue
In this sweet-and-sour family drama, the Travis family: mother Sandy (Sigourney Weaver), father Ben, two sons Matt and Tim (Emile Hirsch) and daughter Penny live comfortably in the suburbs of the USA. The oldest son Matt, a champion swimmer and his father’s pride and joy, takes his own life. This tragedy causes the family to fall apart. Each member wallows in cozy niches of sorrow interwoven with self-absorption, drugs, cigarettes, sex, violence and alcohol. This condition is on-going and often boring; how nice to have enough time and money to nourish long-term depressions. Enough is enough for just one small suicide. In the end, however, as more family history comes to light, it’s a miracle that the entire family hasn’t annihilated itself. The real tragedy is one of Ancient Greek or Old Testament proportions. Thankfully, the emotional flagellations bear fruit and there is an optimistic ending.
The film is a good attempt by twenty-six-year-old Dan Harris, who directed and wrote the screenplay, in spite of clichés such as dividing the film into segments of fall, winter, spring, and summer, reading a child’s diary or setting a place at the table for a deceased person. The message is: “Heroes are either just like you or they are assholes.” Weaver and Hirsch deliver especially strong performances and provide the tension which keeps viewers in their seats. Ryan Donowho, a drummer in Re-Percussionists as well as an actor, is fine as the boy next door. He and Hirsch receive credit for singing on the soundtrack. (Becky Tan)