A dramatic thriller about Diana, a suburban wife and mother who begins to question her seemingly perfect life--and perhaps her sanity--on the 15th anniversary of a tragic high school shooting. In flashbacks, Diana is a vibrant high schooler who, with her shy best friend Maureen, plot typical teenage strategies--cutting class,fantasizing about boys--and vow to leave their sleepy suburb at the first opportunity. The older Diana, however, is haunted by the increasingly strained relationship she had with Maureen as day of the school shooting approached. These memories disrupt the idyllic life she's now leading with her professor husband Paul and their young daughter Emma. As older Diana's life begins to unravel and younger Diana gets closer and closer to the fatal day, a deeper mystery slowly unravels.Written by
One of the main reasons for picking this up is the star pairing of Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood playing the same character Diana in a tale that explores how lives get changed and affected in a post Columbine styled school shooting. Directed by Vadim Perelman who also helmed The House of Sand and Fog, The Life Before Her Eyes is adapted from the novel by Laura Kasischke, and the first scene sets up the hook beautifully - what if you're caught in a dead end with your best friend, and a gunman?
The narrative unfolds in non-linear fashion, which splits the story into two separate threads, one with the younger teenage Diana (Rachel Evan Wood) and her BFF Maureen (Eva Amurri) discussing the usual problems, issues and dreams a teenager would have, and their aspirations in life, and the other putting its focus on the adult Diana (Uma Thurman) now married to a professor and having to raise her child Emma (Gabrielle Brennan) who's quite a handful to handle, providing some mean reminiscence into her own past that she hopes she's able to steer her kid out from that doomed past.
In character pieces like this, both lead actresses shine in their respective spheres, with Evan Rachel Wood playing yet again an impetuous youth living life her own way, never hesitating to dabble in sex and drugs, and basically the making all the mistakes that one can make as a teen. The chemistry shared with Eva Amurri was excellently convincing so much so that with the pivotal scene in the bathroom, you're put on the edge of your seat as to the choices that both will make. Which you can partake in if you put yourself in similar shoes, with a gun pointed at you and a chance to live, or die, per your wishes.
Uma Thurman tackles her mom role with aplomb, juggling raising a kid with trying to avoid her past which is slowly coming back through flashbacks no thanks to the 15th anniversary of the fateful day in school. It may seem that she's living that perfect life, but the cracks soon show up and little things become opportunities for reminiscence. I suppose as a parent you will try that utmost best to avoid your kid repeating the same mistakes you have made, and will be on the lookout for warning signs. Thurman brings to the table that level of maturity, as well as a sense of paranoia as she tries hard to forget her past.
Vadim Perelman created a film that's basically very dreamlike in quality as it deals with themes such as conscience and self-preservation, and crafted the key bathroom scene with ingenuity that keeps you constantly guessing how it will all play out, and pulling his punches at the right time to keep up that level of suspense right up to the end. Production values are purposefully split down the middle to differentiate the landscapes between the two time periods to reflect the lifestyle and mood of Diana and of course to throw clues in addition to what's being done by the narrative, with a haunting soundtrack throughout courtesy of James Horner.
Some may not like the how the finale played out but I thought it was refreshingly different from the usual narrative twist attempts. Some may deem it not plausible, but I tend to consider it not as being performed during a single moment, but more of being worked on over a period of time. After all, an idea isn't just conceived and worked on overnight - we tend to think about it at some lengths not necessarily always during the same sitting. Even if you have an inkling of how it will play out, it's the delivery of key scenes and the wonderful dramatic performances that make this way above average. Recommended!
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