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An Unfinished Life - drama DVD review
AN UNFINISHED LIFE Rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 stars
Actors: Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, Morgan Freeman, Josh Lucas
Director: Lasse Hallström   Studio: Miramax
DVD release: 11 April 2006   Runtime: 108 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Closed-captioned, Color, DVD-Video, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Audio Tracks (English, Dolby Digital 5.1; French [unknown format]), Subtitles (English, Spanish), Commentary by: Director, producer & editor, "The Making Of An Unfinished Life" & "Training Bart the Bear" featurettes, Still gallery

Some movies just become casualties of bad timing; this is one of them. There is much ballyhoo over how this movie seemed to have tried to rekindle the same magic Morgan Freeman had with Clint Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby, except with Robert Redford. In actuality, he wasn't. This movie was filmed a year prior to that one. It was kept on the shelf for a couple of years and released when the Weinstein brothers split with Disney.

Most of the story takes place on a ranch outside of Ishawooa, Wyoming. Both the owner, Einar Gilkyson (Robert Redford), and the ranch have seen better days. So has Einar's longtime ranch hand, Mitch Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who was mauled by a bear and suffers from debilitating pain, eased by daily morphine shots from Einar. Into this sad scenario waltzes the distraught and destitute Jean Gilkyson (Jennifer Lopez), the widow of Einar's son. She's had enough of her physically abusive boyfriend, Gary Winston (Damian Lewis), and has pretty much run out of options other than the ranch. With Jean is someone Einar's never seen before: his granddaughter, Griff Gilkyson (Trevor Moss).

The story is a family drama that moves - like its location - at a small-town pace. There is adequate tension between all four characters on the ranch, and there are a few spots of true tension: Mitch seeing the bear, Gary's intense confrontation with Jean, and Einar encountering both Gary and the bear. All the actors do an absolutely amazing job. Even the supporting cast is wonderful, which includes the local sheriff, Crane Curtis (Josh Lucas), and Camryn Manheim as Nina, the cook at the local greasy spoon.

Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, based on a screenplay by Mark Spragg (he also wrote the novel) and Virginia Krous Spragg, An Unfinished Life is a laconic sort of film that moves at the pace of a novel. The cast is brilliant, the story at its core simplistic in the human drama, but the overall story just isn't off-the-charts amazing. The wondrous scenery and the interaction between Griff, Mitch, Einar, Jean, and the bear is what makes this an enjoyable, watchable film. In an era where high-concept, specials effects-laden films have run amok, it's nice to sit back and watch a human drama unfold. If you open your mind to it, you will see a very good film - not a great film, but very good one indeed.

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reviewed by Bobby Blades
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