Halle Berry lights up the screen Things We Lost in the Fire, while turning in her best performance since Monster’s Ball.
Metaphorically speaking, we don’t see the fire — just the ashes — the formless dust left behind in the wake of a transformative event.
It’s not the easiest way to tackle a story of family tragedy, but Danish director Susanne Bier (Brothers) pulls off a small movie miracle by turning the empty space of a lost loved one into the central character of her English-language debut, Things we Lost in the Fire.
A non-linear examination of loss that stars Halle Berry as a grieving widow and Benicio Del Toro as a recovering heroin addict, the movie opens with a brief but ideal moment in the human experience: A father and son standing next to a pool, sharing a moment of palpable, mutual love.
Before the scene even has a chance to reach its final beat, the opening credits float across the screen. When we rejoin the narrative a few seconds later, we’ve already crossed the invisible line separating one reality from the next.
For the next two hours, we watch the characters struggle to make it to the other side as they wrestle with the death of the family patriarch.
Brian (David Duchovny) was the perfect guy: Attentive, flattering, kind, good-looking and unconditionally loving, he was the backbone of the Burke family. To his wife, Audrey, (Berry), Brian was more than a great father and provider; he was the man who made everything all right, the man who could put his arms around her and make her feel safe and loved when the monsters loomed at night.
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