out of Five
Running time: 107
Enjoyable, well-written drama with effective location work and strong performances. Plus, it’s got a bear in it.
What’s it all about?
Jennifer Lopez plays Jean Gilkyson, a widowed mother who takes her feisty daughter Griff (Anna Paquin-alike newcomer Becca Gardner) and flees her abusive boyfriend (Damian Lewis), ending up in Ishamooa, Wyoming and taking refuge with her bitter father-in-law, Einar (Robert Redford).
Einar lives with Mitch (Morgan Freeman), his best friend, who is still recovering from a vicious bear-mauling. Things are strained at first, because Einar still blames Lopez for his son’s death in a car accident.
The performances are mostly superb, particularly Gardner, who is a real find. The relationship between Einar and Mitch is genuinely touching – Redford and Freeman should do more films together.
There’s also strong support from Camryn Mannheim (as a local diner owner) and Josh Lucas, who, for once, escapes the abusive boyfriend role and plays a kind-hearted local cop who falls for Jean. In addition, the Wyoming scenery is truly gorgeous and there are several unexpectedly funny moments that work well.
If the story seems overly familiar, it’s because it’s basically Heidi. Okay, so a couple of extra characters have been added and there’s a great big bear instead of all that business with the wheelchair, but the story is essentially the same. Also, Lopez lets the side down a little by bungling her big emotional scene, but these are minor quibbles at best.
In short, this is an enjoyable drama that pushes all the right buttons without getting too bogged down in sentimentality. Plus, it’s got a bear in it and no movie with a bear in it is ever that bad. Recommended.
An Unfinished Life (12A)