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 Massachusetts.
Echoes of "Madame Bovary" in the American suburbs. Sarah's in a loveless marriage to an advertising executive, long days with her young daughter at the park and the pool, wanting more. Brad is an immature househusband, married to a flinty documentary filmmaker. Ronnie is just out of prison - two years for indecent exposure to a minor - living with his elderly mother, May; Larry is a retired cop, fixated on driving Ronnie away. Sarah and Brad connect, a respite of adult companionship at the pool. Ronnie and Larry have their demons. Brad should be studying for the bar; Larry misses his job; Ronnie's mom thinks he needs a girlfriend. Sarah longs to refuse to be trapped in an unhappy life. Where can these tangled paths lead? Written by
Director Todd Field satirizes western society and exposes our fundamental flaw as a society. We are a country of self-righteous hypocrites who band together to crush evil wherever it may be found but overlook our own weaknesses.
The story on one level is exceedingly banal: it shifts from scene to scene exposing the triviality of day to day life. Yet there is that haunting sound of an approaching train. Are we witnessing a train wreck? The brilliant use of a narrator lulls us into the belief that this is just a children's story and nothing bad will happen. Yet our eyes are glued to the screen as we await the crash.
Jackie Earle Haley as Ronnie exposes everything that is wrong with our modern world and everything that is right about character acting. He gives a stand out performance definitely worthy of Oscar consideration. The character represents an unknown evil in our community, one that must be sought out and destroyed. His character at times is sympathetic, even lovable and other other times hideous and menacing.
But who is more detestable? Is it Ronnie or is it those infinitely boring (but beautiful) adulterers, Sarah (Kate Winslet) or Brad (Patrick Wilson)? Is it up to us to judge? If we do, are we not being like the suburban community that is the metaphor for our society? In that way, Director Todd Fields includes us in the movie whether we know it or not. This is a wonderful (train) ride that will keep us talking for days. It is one of this year's great movies.
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