Hope, according to the tag line of Things We Lost In The Fire, comes with letting go. Under Susanne Bier's assured direction, it certainly does: the subject matter — death, grief, drug addiction — may imply grim worthiness of the sort designed to garner Oscars, but the humanity of the story and, in particular, Benicio Del Toro's cruelly overlooked central performance, makes this a moving and strangely uplifting tale.
The story revolves around the uneasy relationship between Audrey (Berry) and Jerry (Del Toro). When Audrey's husband Brian (the underused Duchovny) is killed trying to protect a woman from her abusive husband, Audrey grudgingly turns to his best friend Jerry. Their relationship has always been fractured, as Audrey could never understand why their longstanding masculine bond hadn't been fatally undermined by Jerry's drug addiction. Regardless of his obvious flaws though, he's still a link to the past, a happier past when Brian was alive and Audrey needs him around.
It is, certainly, the sort of "big issue" tale that could have been written with an eye on the Academy Awards. That is probably true of the screenplay which leaves the role of Audrey underwritten, but in Berry's capable hands and thanks to Del Toro's blistering performance, it's easy to overlook the flaws and get carried away in the raw emotions of the piece. Simply put, this is the sort of film that takes you to the point of tears about 15 minutes in and keeps you there for the best part of two hours.
It's only after that you really pick up on the flaws. Well, flaw, basically: it's all just a little too pat. As the focus of the plot switches to Jerry moving in with Audrey and her two kids (delightfully played by Llewellyn and Berry), turning his life around and, in turn, helping them through their grief, it's hard to shake the feeling that it's all just a little too too convenient. Still, while the film's general lack of Oscar attention was probably correct, Halle Berry and especially Del Toro have a right to feel a little miffed at being excluded. That the film packs the raw power it does is almost entirely down to them.• Official Site
• Things We Lost In The Fire at IMDb