The Life Before Her Eyes (2007) Poster

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A spoiler to explain some of the negative comments
nicm17 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
*** MAJOR Spoiler **** The following is a significant spoiler, but important to understand the movie, but also many of the negative comments herein.

Surprisingly, and despite the fairly obvious title, most people have not understood the plot. The movie is about a girl that imagines her future life in the few minutes before being shot. So the whole part of the movie where you see old Diana is in fact a young girl's imagination hence some of the critic about the character of old Diana. Furthermore, because there is not 15 years difference between the two periods, you do see on purpose mobile phones or flat screens in the "young days".

For the rest a very good movie in my opinion.
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Gorgeous to watch and hopefully will inspire conversation
bratkievich3 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I don't usually write or like reactive comments but in some cases I feel so strongly about previous comments that I can't keep quiet. And there are serious spoilers ahead.

"Copycat"? Last time I checked, "copycat" is used when you imitate slavishly, you just reproduce some previous thing. Now, if someone can't see the differences between "The Sixth Sense," "Elephant," and "The Life Before Her Eyes," maybe that person should watch more movies before writing. Taking another idea and putting a different spin on it has been done forever, since art began, in paintings, music, literature, all arts. That's creativity, when you put something personal on an old story. Now that person might think that we only need one film about a high school shooting and its consequences. We already have "Elephant;" why do we need more? It's not like we keep having shootings, right? I would also be really sad if I thought that the subjects treated in this movie are only interesting to academics.

"Overly-convenient plot points"? Well, it's all her imagination of her own life before dying. You can't expect realism when it all has this dreamy, life passing before your eyes feeling (with a clever twist). Of course the reminders will keep popping up and flooding her consciousness. Besides, since when all films have to be realistic? On one level, the film represents the guilt and remorse experienced by someone who keeps trying to forget a traumatic incident. But sometimes the hardest you try, the more things keep reminding you of it. The film could have interwoven a brief scene imitating a shock of memory, instead it presents it from an external source, which is how you sometimes feel the memory of traumatic events, as something that is coming from outside, something that you can't prevent or avoid, like a radio that tells us what we've been doing the best effort to put out of our minds.

"A LOT of contrived pathos"? It's about a person dying!!!!!

"An exploitation of columbine"? See comment above about "coypcat."

"Metaphor-laden"? Amazingly, it's only the professional critics who are invoking this one. I really don't understand critics anymore. It's true that speaking plainly has its advantages. But since when do all films have to follow the same rules? Some artists thrive using metaphors. Let them use them! Or maybe they actually are annoyed because they understand the metaphors and we all know that the more unintelligible a film is, the better. Especially if we DO think that we understand them, because that means that we're part of the intelligent elite that can appreciate those films.

"Confusing" and "tiring flashback-flash forward method"? The film follows the pathway of memory, which goes through associations (metonymies, metaphors, repetitions, similarities) and not chronology. Now, wouldn't it be so much less hard if all the past were first and the future later? I guess we're too intelligent so we're above the metaphors but putting pieces in the right order is haaard!

Finally, the jewel: "An overwrought and patently offensive anti-abortion drama"? Clearly, this is coming from a man (Lou Lumenick, New York Post). And he might not have any friends that have had abortions. I'm pro-choice but I know that all of my friends who did it had feelings of remorse (not guilt, although that could be a component). What do you think? That a woman just pretends that it never happened, that she never questions if she could have done something differently. That doesn't mean you're making an anti-abortion diatribe. It's just dealing with a hard, traumatic memory. I'm so sorry that this critic thinks that talking about those feelings implies a moral choice. Talk about manicheism.

I'm not saying that the film is flawless. Maybe it is too precious, even though it has a good excuse for it. It's a collection of idealized moments of past and future passing through someone's imagination. You could certainly find fault in the way that Evan Rachel Wood is sexualized; I mean, the camera really loves her and it's clearly from a male perspective. Others might be able to live with such obvious exponent of "the male gaze."
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A compromised film of two parts
tigerfish5012 April 2010
The narrative of 'Life Before Her Eyes' switches backwards and forwards between two episodes in the life of Diana McFee. The first is her teenage summer prior to a Colombine-style high school massacre - while the second occurs twenty years later, as her town prepares to remember this tragic event's anniversary. In the high school time-line, Diana (Evan Rachel Wood) hangs out with best friend Maureen (Eva Amurri), alternately discussing future plans and current boyfriends. Their fine performances are captured in radiant dreamlike cinematography which intensifies a sense of foreboding as they approach their fateful encounter with a homicidal armed schoolmate.

In the later sequences, a 30-something Diana (Uma Thurman) is embroiled in another crisis, with her marriage under strain and a precocious daughter exhibiting rebellious tendencies similar to Diana's student behavior. Unfortunately these segments are handicapped by a banal story-line and Thurman's lifeless performance. By the end of the film all the loose ends have been neatly resolved, but the climax is ruined by a plot twist which contradicts all the previous character development. Apparently this flawed finale was forced on the producers at Thurman's insistence.
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An intensely beautiful picture
markmaker279 September 2007
I had the privilege of seeing this film at its World Premiere this weekend at the Toronto Film Festival. From the very opening sequence, this picture draws you in with its sheer beauty. The cinematography is terrific and at some points even terrifying (in a breath taking way) but what impressed me most was the dialog. Everything seemed so real, which played up every detail to me and made the picture all the more engrossing. Uma Thurman is top notch in this but i believe that Evan Rachel Wood really makes it because honestly, who else could we expect to play the teen angst better than her? The relationship between Eva Amurri's Maureen and Wood's Diana is so realistic in every situation and much of that credit has to go to Emil Stern's adaptation. There are so many themes that run deep throughout this movie, and the ever pressing scare of school shootings makes this hit home really really hard. This is an amazing film that will touch every single emotion and leave you thinking about it for days. Go see this movie whenever you get the chance. It is an intensely beautiful and moving film and most definitely one of the best I have seen so far this year.
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A Nutshell Review: The Life Before Her Eyes
DICK STEEL2 January 2011
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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bill-202017 April 2008
The sophisticated Perelman/Kasischke sensibilities will not be for all markets; this is essentially a rather highbrow film, with a surprise ending which will spoil it for some who want their movies to be straightforward, but which is essential to its philosophical heart. Thurman is outstanding as the older, pensive Diana, and Wood perhaps even better as the self-confident, rebellious younger version. Perelman's direction captures the dreamy lyricism contrasting with a sometimes brutal realism that is also found in Kasischke's beautiful and poetic 2002 novel. There won't be many better, genuinely adult movies this year, and most likely it will be ignored.
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The Ultimate Test Of Courage And Friendship
Chrysanthepop23 April 2009
Vadim Perelman's 'The Life Before Her Eyes' is just as powerful but equally complex as his harrowing 'The House of Sand and Fog'. This movie is just as engaging and at times, also confusing. Perelman uses fascinating visuals. The film opens with a montage of various beautiful flowers (that have a symbolic definition) and then follows two girls to a highschool bathroom. The shootout scene takes place only within the bathroom while we hear gunfire in the background but for me this movie has achieved in that first sequence what the pretentious 'Elephant' didn't (which was also about a highschool shootout). While the focus is on the two girls, you literally see the fear in their eyes as their 'nice' day is interrupted and their lives are threatened.

On the technical side, it is a very well crafted film. The cinematography, the music, the sets and editing are all top notch. The visuals are detailed and pretty much every frame has something to say.

The ending is different from that of the book but I think both of them rise the same question. What would have you done if you were in Diana's shoes? The question isn't easy to answer because you never actually know unless you are facing such circumstance. That is the test of one's courage. Emil Stern's screenplay is dazzling. The story doesn't follow a linear structure but there's a reason for that. Dialogues are laden with interesting philosophy. Perelman beautifully tackles numerous themes such as friendship, post-traumatic stress, motherhood and abortion among others.

The cast features three powerful performances: by Uma Thurman, Evan Rachel Wood and Eva Amurri. Thurman's portrayal of Diana's complexity, devotion to her family and inability to cope with her past is spot on. Wood and Amurri deliver very natural performances as two girls going through the usual teen problems but dealing with it differently because 'one has what the other doesn't' and that way they help each other. Their on screen friendship is very convincing hinting that they might actually be good friends in real life. Then there's the bathroom scene which could have easily gone wrong had it been played by lesser actresses but this is one of the most powerful scenes in a movie of recent time and one only has to watch it to understand its impact.

'The Life Before Her Eyes' is not an easy film to follow and those who are looking for something simple or light may feel let down but on the other hand it's a very strong movie. Perelman has hit the mark again just like he did with 'The House of Sand and Fog'. He seems to be intrigued by tragic stories and bringing them on screen. He does one hell of a job, again.
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One of the Year's Best
Movie-Jay19 September 2007
I also saw this at Toronto, and visually speaking, this movie is one of the best looking films of the year. This director's first film was the great "House of Sand and Fog" and here he confirms how talented he is. Uma Thurman hasn't been better as she plays a woman who is now well into adulthood, living in the small town that she grew up in, with a professor husband and a little girl. I love the way Perelman uses flashbacks here to inform us about Thurman as a teen. In many films, flashbacks can yank us around and cut tension, but here Evan Rachel Wood is so good that the two characters are seamlessly interwoven in a way that we are treated to a complex character study of a grown woman who is driving herself mad with regret and anxiety and guilt. There's nothing more fascinating than watching conflict that is internal rather than external, and Thurman here is so good, I hope she is remembered come Oscar season.

Just a solid movie in every way. Good score from James Horner, the guy who did the music for "A Beautiful Mind" and "House of Sand and Fog", equally lovely scores in their own right.
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Great ending...
Taj197828 May 2008
I was very pleased with this film throughout, even before watching the surprising, extremely good ending. Unfortunately, that's all I want to say, for fear of spoiling it for everyone. But, take my word for it, "WOW". This film was really quite a treat. It has been a while since I have enjoyed a story so much. The entire film was very intense, and wonderfully put together doing a great job balancing the past and present without causing confusion. Being male, I have to also mention that this is not just a movie for women. I had heard word that it was being categorized as a "women's movie" and I have to disagree. Men and women alike can enjoy this one.
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Muddled, empty weeper.
theskulI4227 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Vadim Perelman has the Lifetime Channel TiVo'd 24 hours a day, especially while he went to film school. That can be the only explanation as to why he seems to make nothing but garishly ornate melodramatic weep stories. His most famous film, House of Sand & Fog, kept a handle on the waterworks until its preposterous and forced conclusion. His newest film, The Life Before Her Eyes, is not quite so lucky.

The film's storyline follows two eras of the same woman, jumping back and forth between teenager Diana (Evan Rachel Wood), and her adult counterpart (Uma Thurman), suffering survivors' guilt after surviving a school shooting where she was directly faced with death and forced to make a choice (whether she or her friend should die). In a sort of questionable career choice, she works in a school just down the street from the school where she was faced with the horrible event, the exact place that gives her all the bad memories that trigger all the flashbacks that we have to sit through. The narrative is cyclical, jumping back and forth between the time before the shooting, depicting Diana's unlikely friendship with an innocent church girl, and her affair with an older man, and her current life, where she is a bit emotionally estranged from her husband due to the troubling memories, taking care of her young child.

Most noticeably, the film is hideously over-directed. Perelman imbues every transition and a lot of extended sequences with this precious ornamental quality that makes the emphasis meaningless, giving as much emotional weight to a tulip as he affords to a murdered teenager. I will give credit where credit is due, the shot of one student lying dead in the gym with beams of light is a striking shot, but, drawing comparisons to 300, most of the film is seemingly shot that way, which makes the freshness turn sour quite quickly. He needs someone to tell him, "No", and make sure he only uses his visual flair when it's more necessary. If you put ketchup on everything, invariably you're going to get sick of it, especially because ketchup doesn't go on everything.

The other major problem for the film is that its weepiness is so restrained that it makes a film a curiously empty experience. Something overwrought qualities could have turned it into camp (not the director's preferred choice of enjoyment, but enjoyment all the same), but much of the film's runtime is spent in mundane purportedly "meaningful" or ironic discussions of pre- and post-shooting life, or tiresome, continuous flashbacks to the exact same moment (The Moment, if you will), and there's not really enough variation or meaning in the sequence to require its appearance so frequently.

The film culminates with an idiotic twist in its final reels, one that, including being stupefying, is also presented in a way that is both baffling and infuriating, as it negates everything that comes before it. That in itself doesn't necessitate failure (there's a certain film, one of the best of this decade, that did exactly this, and made even less sense; if you've seen it, you know what it is ), but the way it is presented here, especially after having to sit through so much blathering nonsense, makes it feel like an extra helping of cheapness thanks to the fact that it negates much of the story. The Usual Suspects utilized this sort of twist after giving us a captivating and exciting crime tale, then dropping the bomb. The Life Before Her Eyes gives us slice of life minutiae, then tells us none of it happened. Why did what sounds to be a poignant examination of grief and life need a 'twist' anyway? Did The Sweet Hereafter need a twist ending? I think not. The way it comes off when it happens, it smacks of desperation and intellectual exhaustion, turning this supposed character study into a bizarre anti-abortion screed that it doesn't fit in. There's a reason you haven't heard of this movie, folks, and I watch 'em so you know when you're at Blockbuster or browsing Netflix, you can skip right past The Life Before Her Eyes.

You're welcome.

{Grade: 4/10 (C-) / #48 (of 66) of 2008}
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The Heart is Not The Strongest...
aharmas22 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Evan Rachel Wood has finally found the role that will define her as the most talented actress of her generation, a role so demanding in its nature that it requires her to show both the details in the everyday life of teenagers and the intense emotional turmoil at the core of Diana's nature.

The film balances the duality of life: its beauty and frailty, its highs and lows, the precarious balance that every human must deal with while facing adulthood. Diana is a superbly written character, one that is not simple in its nature, but detailed, organic portrayal of a girl who has too much fire in her to help her fit in, but who ironically longs what her best friend has. She is not complete unless she spends time with Maureen, and there is true, genuine affection between these two girls. They know each other's dreams, troubles, hopes, and disappointments. The beauty of the film is how natural the dialog flows as we reach the surprising ending.

In general, the film is a masterpiece, a work of art that explores the possibilities of life, the repercussions of a single moment, the way, we must make choices and determine what we think might be best for us, and yet, what if, we had chosen differently. This is a movie that turns clichés upside down, giving us a new perspective on how refreshing storytelling can be if approached with a original design. Superb photography and a haunting score add to the overall effect, but it all rests on the shoulders of a very talented young woman, a girl who can tell us stories in seconds with just a look... and she brings to mind those cinema stars of the past, before CGI started stealing our creativity and numbing our minds and hearts.

"In Bloom" is bound to move you beyond tears because it appeals to both the heart and the mind, never allowing us to forget how precious life can be.
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Genre: Women's film. Audience: Everybody.
David T.11 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The closing night film at the just-concluded 2008 Phoenix Film Festival was as wonderful as its opener, "The Visitor." "The Life Before Her Eyes" was directed by Vadim Perelman, from an adapted screenplay based on the novel of the same name by Laura Kasischke. (Perelman directed the moving, tragic "House of Sand and Fog," released in 2003, which we raved about at the time.) "Before Her Eyes," like last year's Sandra Bullock vehicle "Premonition," is what I call a women's film--which is decidedly not the same thing as a chick flick. It's a serious look at issues women face, through a woman's eyes, from women's perspectives. That's not to say men won't like and be thoughtfully stimulated by it too. The film is visually poetic right from the credits, with images--close-ups of flowers melting away through lenswork or computer tricks or both--that herald the sensuous feel of the whole film.

The film's axis is a massacre at a high school by a disturbed young man--hardly an untopical event these days. It follows a couple of female, teen-age best friends up to and well beyond the bloody events of that day. Rachel Evan Wood plays "Diana," one of the two girls--a restless, sexually active, alienated, self-willed and somewhat confused young woman, whose friend Maureen (Eva Amurri) presents a counterweight to those qualities.

Uma Thurman plays Wood's character as a grown-up--an art history teacher with a husband, a child, and traumatic memories of the day that changed everything. We'll avoid spoilers, since right up to the end of this film, the viewer has been led to look at the film one way, and it may not be the right way. That said, there's a "Sophie's Choice" element at its crux, though one less gratuitous in its framing and in its consequences than I've always considered that hinge of Styron's book (and of the film made from it) to be. However, against the decisive turning point represented by the massacre, the film examines what seem to be a number of uniquely female preoccupations and dilemmas: For instance, there's the question of sex. Men are generally all impulse, expressing the conatus of Leibnizian philosophy; women are the gatekeepers. Women, adolescent girls deal with the good girl-bad girl issue: They can say no, and are expected by parents, society to do so; but how long can they and keep a man they may want? So they deal with guilt. They deal with the pressure, and then, often the rejection, even by the same source of the pressure--young boys who then taunt their conquests as "sluts." The blood of their period is akin to, can lead to, the blood of an abortion: this is the blood of Christian-viewed sin, not of "the redemptive blood of the lamb." Another item: Men, for the most part, hold power of life and death over other living, "born" people--they send others to war, to their executions. Women hold that power over the unborn. Maybe it's a fair division. But maybe no one would like to have either power, if they could avoid it.

Women are taught, socialized to make a relationship, a marriage, a home. If those things fall apart they are told, in myriad ways, to look first to themselves to blame. Even with a philandering husband. Even with a child who's simply programmed to behave, act out, resist, rebel; among other reasons, as part of the eternal cycle of mother-daughter conflict. As Thurman's Diana says, "I thought if I cared for my child, helped my students, loved my husband, everything would be all right." But doing those things, the right thing, doesn't necessarily control outcomes, bring ultimate happiness.

As an art teacher, the lessons Diana is teaching focus on Gauguin--like the art references in Philip Roth's early, seminal novel Goodbye Columbus. I'll leave the point of that reference, that inclusion, for the viewer to explore for themselves, as with the Blake poem Diana reads to her daughter to soothe her to sleep. Likewise the ubiquitous imagery of water in the film: in one scene, young Diana, getting wet in the spray from a fountain, wonders where the boundary is between its mist and the air it is dissipating into. Where is the boundary between consciousness and not-being? Between life in its vibrancy and the ebbing away of life? (Echoes of Richard Linklater's "Waking Life.") There are a few false notes, as in the somewhat hokey dialogue about "the heart being the strongest muscle in the body." Some other witty exchanges reminded me of the improbably smart, ready-for-the Dorothy-Parker-book-of-quips utterances by Ellen Page's precocious teen in last year's phenomenon "Juno." But they're infrequent, and dissolve quickly in the potent, larger mix. The title and final plot twist are in fact a hoary cliché--and a clue ... though one most people, I feel, are unlikely to crack. (Another clue is to be found in the soundtrack, in an old Zombies song heard repeatedly, sometimes in different forms, in the film.) At least, I didn't--the whole weight, momentum of the film are so forceful on behalf of a different supposition. A gorgeous, thoughtful, disturbing film, one that--like "Being There," last year's "Perfume," "2001: A Space Odyssey"--you can hardly imagine being anywhere near as effective in a non-visual medium. Which is why we have film these days, and why, in The Midtown Messenger at least, you'll find it analyzed as the serious "literature" it is. (For more film-osophy of this ilk, as well as "Fake News," humor, satire, news and opinion, visit the online version of our print publication, or google it and click on the link for its blog.)
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Saw film at AFI
alwaddle3 April 2008
I saw this film at the AFI International Film Festival in Dallas. This film brought about every single emotion that I think one could have. I cried, laughed and was completely terrified. The film had me examine every little thing that could possibly make me understand the outcome. I haven't seen a film of this caliber in a long time. I was shaking and felt my heart pounding at various points in the film. I am amazed with the director Vadmir who did House of Sand and Fog. He has a unique style of bringing about various elements to convey his message. The cinematography was beautiful and the score was fabulous. James Horner that has done many different works can add another spectacular masterpiece to his list of credits. Eva Ammuri is beautiful and plays a role that is unlike any role anyone has seen from her. Evan Rachel Wood gives another emotional nail biting performance of a troubled teen. She was phenomenal in Thirteen and has come into her own as an adult for the role of Diane. Uma Thurman has never looked better than she did in this film. Young Gabrielle Brennan is the next Dakota Fanning and is a joy to speak with. She has such a wit about her and open to what life has to offer. I can't stop raving about this film as I am completely blown away by the talent and film. The story hits home for so many people and everyone can gain something from it. I can not wait to see it again as I want to re-watch and look for things I missed the first time. Go see the film, it is well worth the 1.5 hours and will have you on the edge of your seat.
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Diana's lesson about conscience.
TxMike26 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I like both of the lead actresses and that made the movie worth watching. As the story was unfolding I found it a bit slow, but once everything was revealed I understood why.

This is a story with a "twist", and therefore is difficult to say much about without revealing something important for those who have not seen it yet. But it has to do with "conscience" and how our minds create the image of the person we want to be.

Uma Thurman is the adult Diana McFee, and Evan Rachel Wood, 15 years earlier, is the Young Diana. The movie is edited so that it switches often between the two periods of time. But the movie actually starts and ends within about the same 3 or 4 minutes of time, while Diana is in high school.

Other key characters are Eva Amurri (Susan Sarandon's daughter) as Diana's best friend in high school, Maureen. And cute little Gabrielle Brennan as adult Diana's daughter Emma McFee. Diana's husband is Brett Cullen as Paul McFee, a professor she began to idolize as she went to a presentation of his for a class assignment when she was 17.

MAJOR SDPOILERS, DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS MOVIE: As the movie begins we see some of the typical issues for a high school girl, and Diana and Gabrielle make a quick stop in the girls' restroom before their next class. As they banter they hear rifle shots, and quickly figure out that a student is shooting other students and faculty. The gunman enters the restroom and encounters them, saying I am going to kill one of you. The movie flashes to this scene several times and since we see the adult Diana 15 years later we must figure that her friend had been shot. But no, Diana had formed her conscience to care more for her friend, and said "Shoot me." When the boy did, and then turned the gun on himself, at the same time student Diana falls mortally wounded the adult Diana, looking for her child in the woods, also falls mortally wounded. The whole movie of the adult Diana was a "flash forward", her imagined life before her, during the moments before she died.
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Absolutely Perfect!
RitchCS20 August 2008
How did this movie slip by the general public without rave reviews and heavy box office? Some studio missed making a bundle by not producing and distributing this film. Granted, I watched the DVD, having few choices this week from Netflix and from the first chord of James Horner's mesmerizing musical score, I was drawn in unlike any film I've seen this year and I usually see up in the thousands per year. Uma and Evan Rachel have never been better. The extras on the DVD are spoilers so watch the feature first. I was so entranced by each scene that when the final scene appeared, I didn't have a clue as the script was so tightly written. The novel's author was first a poet and her hand at prose is equally as good. I watched it a second time immediately to watch for clues and flaws...there were none. The director, DP, writer, set designer, and the entire cast are ALL Oscar worthy. Maybe the Independent Spirit Awards will heap honors on it next winter. I can see how the film might turn off teen viewers, but to regular adult moviegoers, do NOT miss this movie!
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knockout impressive movie
mkham623 December 2008
Just saw this in Kiev without knowing a thing (except it was in English) because Evan Rachel Wood is a great actress and going to be a major star. This has all the tension and nail-biting suspense of Rukrainian Vadi Perlman's House of Sand + Fog- too much considering the subject. (I could have questioned him at Molodist FF, but saw listing too late). Wood made her bones in this movie- being erotic, sharp, deep, beautiful, wounded, terrified in utterly effortless and unaffected acting. Uma is not my favorite actress- showing the deeply neurotic side of her that I think is real, but it works perfectly in this movie- as she displays the PTSD that every person back from Iraq knows too well. The parallel track of what is going on with her wanton, wild, and maybe damaged daughter adds more tension- has the poison of that event somehow soaked into her daughter? The cinematography is excellent as it charts the deep feelings between 2 best girlfriends, and the mystical internal turmoil over time and memory, now and then, real and illusion.

My only problem is that I know this subject intimately - I reviewed the book Copycat Effect: , which proves that almost any publicity about these mass shootings causes kids and adults to reenact them, usually on anniversaries of previous events. "Eyes" showed the shootings again and again in lovingly graphic detail and I don't think this subject should get any major movie play- it's just too dangerous. See if, in a couple of years, some schoolyard shooter doesn't say he saw this movie 20 times. On the other hand, emphasizing the pain and horror of these events is also recommended by shrinks.
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Boring, Less Interesting Version Of (spoiler)
dijitalnomad1 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Boring, less interesting version (or just a similar film or concept) of the 2005 film "Stay". I really dislike these kinds of overly-ambiguous mysteries that captivate you by keeping you in the dark... to feel as though something -- something -- is just beyond your reach -- while really all the viewer is missing -- is withheld-- is the dumb hook at the end. I think this was a book and I'm sorry if you're a fan but this film is like a bad mix of ... the adaptation of Perfume (in that I can't imagine it translated well), and Sixth Sense. I'll leave Wikipedia to explain the plot if you're seeking more than a vague critique.

I will say the three leading women were gorgeous, and basically what kept me watching.
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Amazing movie
Kristin H18 September 2008
The Life in her eyes is amazing, a thriller to tell the least, you'll laugh, you might cry (i did), and you will feel a load of emotions toward this movie, which is really why we see movies isn't it? To feel again? This movie is great, the depth of a school shooting survivor dealing with the loss of a best friend, and the twists and turns of this movie make it even more spectacular. I was incredibly confused at the end of the movie, but once you figure it out (it takes a minute, and this site is helpful to read comments after you've seen the movie), like i said once you figure it out, oh how great you will think this movie is. I'm going to buy this movie its that good. Make sure you come into this movie with an open mind because what you think this movie is, it isn't.

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Looking forward to a second viewing
MsMaryS28 May 2008
This is a story of a 30 something mother who seemingly leads the ideal life: career as an art teacher, successful husband, a nice home, children...but as always, there are skeletons in her closet. You quickly learn that her home life is less than perfect and she is dealing with a haunting past. Flashing back and forth from her childhood to her present adult life, the film tells that she had tragically lost her closest childhood friend in a horrific school shooting. Thinking this was in the past, she went on with her life, but now the tragedy is manifesting itself and causing her to face the truth and face her past. The story is very well done and maintains a realistic quality. I am truly looking forward to seeing it a second time.
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Predictable (SPOILER ALERT)
certhia2 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Having just finished watching this film I feel compelled to write a review. I decided to watch this since I was impressed by The House of Sand and Fog, which had something dark and compelling. This one however had an empty feel to it. Not long into the movie you cannot help but realize that the flash-backs are in fact flash-forwards into a possible future that Diana sees for herself if she makes the who-is-to-die decision in favor of herself (meaning Maureen dies). The song She's Not There gives away that fact way too fast. From there on there's only one possible ending (well perhaps still two possible endings but if the alternative had been the case the film would have been even more mute). Then why do I still give it 6 stars? Well because I appreciated the effort and the acting of Evan Rachel Wood as the young Diana and of Eva Amurri as the deluded Maureen. What I can never help wondering (and not just with his movie) why there needs to be such bad CGI in it. In this case the birds that you see flying away all the time. They are so totally fake that it detracts from the movie and why do they need to be there in the first place? To give us an ominous feeling? Well then you won't succeed by giving us fake birds. Never got it. All in all a nice effort by Vadim Perelman but falling way short of The House of Sand and Fog.
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Wasting film and talent
okieindian22 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I like Uma. She will one day regret making this movie. While some may say that this movie is the result of an artistic mind, it will not be heard from anyone I know who saw the movie. It was obvious from the slow panning at the beginning and became worse as it progressed. Jerking the viewer around with repeated "clips" of the same scenes only made the movie longer and more boring. Developing a storyline and then deleting it for no obvious reason is the work of one with no vision. A good movie has a beginning, a middle and an end. This movie had a very slooooooow beginning, a confused and muddled middle and "the end" did not complete the movie. I've watched a lot of bad movies, hoping that they produce something that I might want to watch again. I have watched some movies that succeeded in this. But "The Life Before Her Eyes" is a movie that I will warn people about and advise them waste their money on something else. This is a piece of junk created by those who have no creative ability... JUNK!
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Weak Attempt to Cash in on School Shooting Curiosity
WasteBot24 June 2008
While Rachel is still a young teen herself, ignorant, and gullible, it amazes me that Uma took a film this bad. The story is like something made up for a religious magazine or booklet handout.

In short, had I seen this before Juno, I wouldn't have been so hard on Juno. As bad as Juno is, this is easily one of the worst teen films ever made. It doesn't even offer a soundtrack worth listening to unless you include a brief clip of The Zombies "She's Not There". If only the film wasn't there, my time wouldn't have been wasted.

Besides the simplistic religious preaching at the core of the story, the worst part may be the attempt to cash in on the interest and curiosity about school shootings. The film provides absolutely no insight into them. If anything, it might promote a school, theater, camera, or TV shooting.
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Time Stops with Trauma: Flashbacks and Flash Forwards
gradyharp24 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Laura Kasischke's intelligent novel 'The Life Before Her Eyes' has been brilliantly adapted for the screen by Emil Stern, and with the skills of director Vadim Perelman, this underrated movie in the theaters may find a wider appreciative audience in this DVD format. It is a film that challenges the viewer to think, to piece together the evidence, and to come to personal conclusions about the meaning of the story.

Diana (Evan Rachel Wood in an outstanding performance) is a 'loose girl' in her highschool who happens to be best friends with her total opposite, the moralistic virgin Maureen (Eva Amurri). While sharing thoughts and gossip in the school's bathroom they hear gunshots and rapidly become victims of a wild student's killing spree, terrorizing the school. The killer enters the bathroom, asks the girls to decide which one of the two will volunteer to die, gunshots blaze and we see Diana lying on the floor of the bathroom while Maureen shrinks beneath the sinks: the last gunshots are apparently the killer committing suicide.

Flash forward 15 years and Diana (Uma Thurman) is the beautiful wife of a professor (Sherman Alpert), an art history teacher, and mother of young Emma (Gabrielle Brennan). There is something not quite real about the atmosphere: Diana lives in fear and grief (?Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome?) and despite her 'perfect' surroundings, she is ridden with anxiety. When asked by a friend if she is going to attend the 15 year Memorial for the school shooting event Diana says she hasn't decided. What follows is a series of flashbacks allowing us to fully understand the young Diana's motivations and impulsive behavior and her close relationship with Maureen before the tragedy changed their lives. But gaping holes in the history of the event and the subsequent years ultimately force the viewer to decide what actually happened in the past: are we witnessing reality or imagined dreams - and it is left to every viewer to decide the facts of the story for themselves.

Uma Thurman is brilliant in this challenging role and Evan Rachel Wood is equally stunning as the younger version of Thurman's role. The entire cast contributes an ensemble performance that keeps us involved in this thriller from opening frame to closing credits. Vadim Perelman's approach to the story offers subtle, visually magnificent images that provide clues throughout the film about the division between real and imagined. This is a fine film on every level. Highly recommended. Grady Harp
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Sorry guys, this will be the worst film of the year.
Well, I don't usually muster up the energy to post reviews on IMDb, but frankly, after seeing all of the glowing reviews on here, I felt compelled to get the word out, as I'm sure there are people who share my point of view on this film.

I really don't mean to come across as unnecessarily harsh or critical, but this was probably the worst film I've seen in the past year. Yes, even worse than the latest studio offerings such as Vantage Point and 21.

You know how you go into a movie, and about ten minutes in, you get that horrible but ever-present "oh my god, this movie is going to be terrible" feeling? That's pretty much what this film's wholly unrealistic dialog and incredibly heavy-handed score brought out in me. Add on a number of overly-convenient plot points (let's have the character turn on the radio just as an expository news report is broadcast), a LOT of contrived pathos, an exploitation of columbine, and the most absurd and atrocious ending which makes the film go from bad to immeasurably worse... and you have "Life Before Her Eyes." And note - I enjoyed House of Sand and Fog.

I'll finish this up by saying that Evan Rachel Wood's performance, in spite of the horrible dialog she had to work with, was pretty good, all things considered. Someone needs to get this girl some good material so she can truly shine.
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Feels Emotionally Distant
JoshtheGiant19 August 2008
I was expecting a lot more. House of Sand and Fog was brilliant, but Perelman loses it in his second film, but it really isn't him that hurts the film the most, although he does lose himself in the imagery a little but. Most of the flaws of the film can be attributed to the screenplay, It never fully meshes. Also the plot twist at the end completely ruins what we have seen, which isn't far above mediocre as is. There are, though a couple of good things about the film. Most notably the performances by Wood and Amurri. They are natural and wonderful. They almost make the film worth watching. The cinematography is also rather beautiful, in fact almost too much so for the film. It makes it seem even more artificial.
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