Captives of the very relationships that define and sustain them, nine women resiliently meet the travails and disappointments of life.Captives of the very relationships that define and sustain them, nine women resiliently meet the travails and disappointments of life.Captives of the very relationships that define and sustain them, nine women resiliently meet the travails and disappointments of life.
Writer/director Rodrigo García creates nine vignettes, each introduced by the central character's name like a chapter heading, as master acting classes. In about ten minutes, each actress, and occasionally their male supporters, go from zero to ten, less through the language, which is so natural it seems improvised, but through their faces, bodies and inflections.
Each woman faces an emotional crisis involving her relationship with a loved one -- parent, child, lover, husband, sister; sometimes the stories start them at a high point and they reach a catharsis, others are in the midst of a normal day and then get socked with interactions that rock their balance. Each tries to stay in control of their situations, with emotional prices to pay. About half the characters briefly cross-appear in stories that may come before their previous appearance, mostly to add ironic meanings to a situation or dialog that would have a different impact without the added information from the other vignette. A refrain of "I can't stop thinking about you" comes with different meanings about love and guilt or obsession each time, though this is more about connections between people (as symbolized by the webs behind the interstitial name cards).
The two hander with Robin Wright Penn and Jason Isaacs (with a very creditable American accent, though he seemed to be playing a very similar character as he did on "West Wing") packs a wallop, mostly through Penn's expressions and complete body language, from her eyelids to her fingers to her feet. A shopping walk through the long aisles of your neighborhood supermarket may never have quite the same expectations. Garcia's gliding camera work adds to the emotional freight as by widening and lengthening the frame he gradually reveals more information about the two characters.
Amy Brenneman paying respects at a funeral builds up in nervousness as we learn more about the complicated background of her relationship with the deceased, then goes for a crescendo in a brief, almost silently dynamic interaction with an explosive William Fichtner. This may be the first time that certain American Sign Language words have been used in a movie.
Lisa Gay Hamilton's character is so emotionally wrought that you get agitated just watching her, even as we cry over why she's so radioactive.
Kathy Baker facing surgery reveals more of the emotional complications for couples facing medical issues than a dozen Lifetime TV movies.
Garcia well shows women caught between strong people, particularly the vignettes with Amanda Seyfried and Holly Hunter, though the latter recalls "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" too much. Molly Parker creates warm chemistry with women as a friend in two stories. Dakota Fanning actually acts her age and seems like a natural child for a change in her vignette with Glenn Close.
I presume this was shot on digital video, judging by the saturated look of the beautiful cinematography. What will be lost by waiting to see the film on DVD will be the subtle details of the actresses' fulfilling performances that should be seen on a big screen.
- Oct 24, 2005