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Things We Lost in the Fire - Blu-ray DVD / drama DVD review
THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 stars
Featuring: Halle Berry, Benicio Del Toro, David Duchovny, John Carroll Lynch, Alison Lohman
Directors: Susanne Bier Distributor: Dreamworks Video
DVD release: 24 March 2009 Runtime: 118 min.
(1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ratio 2.35:1, Audio tracks (Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround - English, French, Spanish), Subtitles (English, English SDH, Spanish, French, Portugese), A Discussion About Things We Lost in the Fire, Deleted scenes, Theatrical trailer

Things We Lost in the Fire is about two people coming to terms with the loss of the most important person in their lives (who happens to be the same person) and how they find they need each other, in very different ways, to help deal with the loss. While there are many poignant and quite effective moments, the film slips too often into melodrama and thus is not quite as effective and moving as it could have been.

The film has a non-linear structure in the first part before becoming linear in the second. In flashbacks, we meet Brian (David Duchovny), who has a near perfect marriage with Audrey (Halle Berry), two kids, a beautiful home, and a successful business. He also has a seemingly one-sided friendship with Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), one of which Audrey does not approve. Jerry is a heroin addict, and Audrey fears that the friendship will only bring harm to Brian.

When Brian is killed in a senseless tragedy (not Jerry's fault) while trying to stop a man from beating his wife, Audrey sums up the courage to invite Jerry to the wake and funeral - not because she likes Jerry at all, but because she knows her husband would have wanted her to.

In an act that seems curious at first, Audrey later invites Jerry to move into her garage apartment. She does so not out of any romantic attraction for Jerry, but because it partially helps fill a void left by the loss of Brian: by helping Jerry, she is in a way following in Brian's footsteps. Furthermore, because Jerry is a lifelong friend of Brian's and knows things about him that she doesn't, Jerry's presence helps keep a part of Brian alive to her and open for discovery.

There is much to like about this film; there are many beautiful shots, and director Bier has a gift for using close-ups effectively. She wisely features many close-ups of Berry's strikingly beautiful face and eyes. The makers have also obviously done their research on how kids tend to react to the loss of a parent (Micah Berry, as the 10-year-old daughter, delivers a moving performance), as well as how a 12-step program for recovering addicts operates.

Furthermore, Del Toro's performance is solid, especially given that, as a heroin addict, he has plenty of chances to ham it up yet never does. He is especially strong in the scene where he first learns of Brian's death - he has trouble registering the news, before slowly and painfully realizing that it is not a joke.

His performance is stronger than Berry's. She is not terrible, but in what is an admittedly showy part for an actress, she does become a bit melodramatic in some key scenes (her performance when she learns of Brian's death is not as effective as Del Toro's).

One other flaw in the movie: a few scenes tease at a possible romance between Jerry and Audrey, and they stick out like a sore thumb. The main theme of the story is about a burgeoning friendship based on mutual need, not a romance. Because the romance angle is only hinted at and never developed, these scenes simply feel out of place. A more likely romance could have been formed between Jerry and a sweet-faced fellow recovering addict named Kelly (Alison Lohman). This potential romance is never developed, but Kelly does help save Jerry at a crucial point in the story.

Overall, Things We Lost in the Fire is not a great film about loss and recovery, but it is a good one. Bier seems to get many things right, but again, some moments feel out of place, and a bit too much melodrama keeps it from being as effective as it could have been.

The extras are disappointing for a Blu-ray and not anything beyond what one would find on a DVD:
  • A standard making-of featurette
  • Deleted scenes
  • Trailer
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reviewed by Trent Daniel
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