The lives of two lovelorn spouses from separate marriages, a registered sex offender, and a disgraced ex-police officer intersect as they struggle to resist their vulnerabilities and temptations in suburban Connecticut.
The movie is set in the Pacific Northwest; specifically, Washington state. We know this from a glimpse of a license plate, the craftsman architecture of the two houses, and the mature, rich landscapes in between. The setting, like the scrutiny of the four main character's lives, is defined by the narrowness of the camera's field-of view. The one commercial street in town is only seen in the reflection of a store window, a shot of a non-descript auto-yard, or the tunnel of a tree-lined suburban sidewalk. The lush, wooded landscape is understood as an immediate presence in the domestic and professional lives of the characters; a steep hill, railroad tracks, a rushing stream, and a path over an old steel bridge are revisited again and again by the characters in their capacities as lovers, parents and friends. Written by
"We Don't Live Here Anymore" is a sophisticated examination of the complexities of the difficult relationship that is contemporary marriage and family.
As it takes us awhile in the beginning to figure out who is attached in what couple, Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Peter Krause and Naomi Watts superbly act a matched quartet of grown-up friends whose restlessness and frustrations with their personal and professional lives are gradually torn to shreds by propinquity and alcohol (and perhaps by community college teachers having too flexible schedules and temptations). The suspense comes in the revelation of the layers that get peeled off each and we wonder just how far each will go.
Each actor finds a unique response to their character's emotional situation and the production design well illustrates their individuality (though once again in a film I got fooled that I was supposed to think ill of a character like Dern's whose comfortable house is evidently a mess when it looks like mine, while I thought Watts' house was really cold in its spotlessness while gradually I realized I was supposed to think she was more together, but heck she had one less kid).
While I haven't read yet the two Andre Dubos short stories that Larry Gross adapted for the screenplay, Ruffalo's voice-over is used inconsistently as an occasional crutch to reveal inner thoughts probably to help bolster the denouement; otherwise the camera angles try to convey their thoughts, but that manipulates the audience a bit as to whom to root for.
Maryse Alberti's cinematography richly conveys summer passing in a beautiful yet claustrophobic college town.
The song selections are not particularly revelatory, but the music is effective at mood-setting.
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