While known for her stunning beauty, Halle Berry has given some of her best dramatic performances when she has looked just ordinary. In her latest film, “Things We Lost in the Fire,” Berry goes back to the basics, but mostly with mixed results.
From the outset, the film’s mood is heavy. Whether spending quiet time with her husband, Steve (X-Files’ David Duchovny) or obsessing over his loyal relationship with his drug-addicted childhood friend, Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), Audrey appears to be carrying a heavy load that soon will push her close to the edge of no return.
When her husband leaves to get ice cream and the police show up in his place to deliver the tragic news that he was murdered, Audrey is heartbroken. Traumatized and frail, she can’t even bring herself to walk into her late husband’s office to look at his things. Her body is there, but her mind is somewhere else entirely. When her husband’s best friend, Jerry, shows up for his funeral, Audrey reaches out to him to help her deal with her grief.
While it is perfectly reasonable to expect someone who has suffered such a life-altering tragedy to be a little off-centered and unbalanced, screenwriter Allen Loeb’s script does Berry no favors. In several scenes where Berry and Del Toro interact, the film features some clumsy transitions as the two try to find common ground moving forward post-Steve.
In some scenes, the film’s transitions almost have the feel of a book condensed into a movie. Between the many assumptions that have to be made and the many unexplained actions, the slow style makes for a film that feels as disconnected as Halle’s character. Del Toro is fantastic as the heroin-addicted friend who helps Berry get her life back together.
Berry has been receiving lots of buzz for her sad restrained performance, but unfortunately for her and Del Toro, both are sabotaged by a script that fails to consistently flow. Death, depression and drug-addiction are always hard sells in film and “Things We Lost in the Fire” is a film that is full of good intentions, but ultimately falls short.