The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them
As I described this gorgeous film about those who endure tragedies, a close friend accurately responded, “I hate the fact that I can’t wait to see it.”
The film begins with newlyweds Conor Ludlow and Eleanor Rigby rolling around on the grass in a New York park. They just left a restaurant, and they are engulfed in their passionate love for each other. As Eleanor sits on top of Conor, pinning him to the ground, he looks up and says, “Go easy, I only have one heart.”
You next see Eleanor riding a bike on a bridge spanning the Hudson. She suddenly starts walking, then climbs to an opening and jumps to a likely death. Something dreadful has happened to this couple, and Director Ned Benson’s The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them invites us to share the couples despair.
Though the film never revisits the moment that ripped these two loveable souls apart, it becomes clear that they have lost a young child. Despite their efforts, they have become catatonic, and their collective world has been crushed.
I loved every moment of this film, which is attributable to the dazzling performances of James McAvoy as Conor and Jessica Chastain as Eleanor. Ms. Chastain is captivating as a woman beyond help who has fled to her parents’ home. She is lost in a world as if she is an alien from another planet. Her family tries desperately to assist her, which includes taking a picture down from a stairwell wall that shows Eleanor, Conor and their child. Unfortunately, Eleanor sees the empty space.
McAvoy’s performance is equally brilliant, playing a young restaurant owner who has lost all direction. Trying to live in the couple’s old apartment, he finally has to flee to his father’s residence to seek some solitude. He vacillates from anger to exhaustion, and your heart breaks for him as much as Eleanor.
But the magnificence of the movie is also reflected by superior supporting actor contributions. William Hurt and Isabelle Huppert play Eleanor’s parents who are left in their own agony knowing that they can’t help their daughter. Mr. Hurt is wonderful as a college professor who keeps a meaningful distance from his daughter, while Ms. Huppert is completely enjoyable as Eleanor’s French mother who finds red wine and a cigarette a necessity by 5:00 every day.
Ciaran Hinds makes a memorable contribution as Conor’s father, a gentle man whose great success in the restaurant business has left him understanding human failings after three divorces. Bill Hader also stands out as a chef and close friend of Conor, as does Viola Davis as a Professor who takes Eleanor under her cryptic wing. I should also note that Jess Weixler is unforgettable as Eleanor’s sister, the only person left on Earth who can comfort her.
Both Conor and Eleanor have fallen down separate rabbit holes leaving them in a Wonderland without any wonder. They touch, they talk and then they flee. The question confronting the viewer is whether they can ever find their way back home.
Watch for the soon to be released sequels entitled Him and Her. I want to resolve my doubt.