The American directorial debut of director Susannah Bier, "Things We Lost in the Fire" stars Halle Berry as Audrey, who - at the movie's open - has just recently lost her husband, Brian (David Duchovny). Early in the movie, Audrey and her children - Harper (Alexis Llewellyn) and Dory (Micah Berry) - attend the funeral early in the movie, and are joined by many of Brian's close friends and family. One of the friends is Jerry (Benecio Del Toro), one of Brian's long-time best pals, and also a recovering addict.
While Audrey never approved of Jerry, she still invites him to stay longer. Throughout the movie, we get flashbacks of Brian's life leading up to this point, and both his friendship with Jerry and his relationship with his wife. As the film progresses, we see that Brian was the only friend that Jerry had left as his life began to spiral out of control.
In present day, Audrey begins to look past her dislike of Jerry and realize that Brian would have wanted him to be looked after. He realizes that he has screwed up in the past, and begins to think that maybe someone should be there for Audrey like Brian was there for him. She offers him the chance to move in to an extra space above the garage in order to help out and get himself settled in a nice area away from the run-down neighborhood he lives in. However, while the two believe they can help each other, it eventually becomes evident that them being together may do much more harm than good and what they are seeking may be within themselves.
The movie manages to be both an addiction movie and a movie about loss and balances the two issues reasonably well. Del Toro's performance is the most remarkable thing about the movie, as he does a wonderful job portraying the hurt that he feels about how his addiction has kept him down and caused him to lose nearly everything.
I haven't been thrilled in the least with Berry in her last couple of performances ("Perfect Stranger"), but she really does make a very nice comeback with this role, as it is a touching, fairly subtle portrayal of a character attempting to mourn and look after her kids. I definitely wouldn't say that either performance isn't award-worthy, but they're two efforts that are mostly good and sometimes great. Berry and Del Toro are kind of an inspired, unexpected pairing, but they work well together. Duchovny and Berry, however, don't have very much chemistry in their scenes together. Allison Lohman, as an addict at Jerry's meetings who realizes when Jerry may be in trouble again, also offers a fine supporting effort.
The film is, as one might expect, not a "feel good" picture, but I have to say that at least the picture stays with its tone till the end (although the finale of "Accept the good" is a bit of an overly simplistic note to end on) and doesn't try for a happier ending, as one might expect from a movie like this. The movie tiptoes into melodrama and soapiness at times, but doesn't really ever go into being heavy-handed.
Overall, the movie works well enough. The performances are very good, but the story has a few rocky moments and the movie's a little too low-key and arm's length for its own good. Overall, this is a drama with strong moments and fine performances, but it just falls short of being memorable.
VIDEO: "Things We Lost in the Fire" is presented by Paramount in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is perfectly respectable, as sharpness and detail mostly looked reasonably good - although a few minor instances of softness were spotted, the picture mostly looked crisp and detailed. Some minor artifacting was spotted, but no other issues were seen. Colors looked warm and rich, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is, as one might expect, subdued and low-key, with little in the way of surround use. Audio quality is fine, with crisp dialogue and a clear, full sounding score.
EXTRAS: 7 deleted scenes and a "making of" featurette, "A Discussion About Things We Lost in the Fire".
Final Thoughts: "Things We Lost" is a generally compelling drama, but the fact that the film remains a little cool emotionally and has some heavy-handled moments keep it from being great. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality and a couple of minor extras. Recommended as a rental for fans of the actors.
The Film B