out of Five
Running time: 124
Emotionally engaging, superbly acted drama with a terrific script and impressive direction from writer-director Mike Binder.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Mike Binder, Reign Over Me stars Don Cheadle as Manhattan dentist Alan Johnson, who spots his college roommate Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) on a street corner and discovers that he is still a stammering, emotional wreck, five years after losing his wife and children on September 11th. Charlie has become a recluse, both mentally and physically, and Alan finds the changes in his friend hard to deal with as he tries to rekindle their friendship.
However, Alan also has problems of his own. A beautiful but bonkers patient (Saffron Burrows) is threatening to sue him for sexual harassment and his wife (Jada Pinkett Smith) is pressuring him to spend more time with her and the children. An added layer of complication develops when Alan's psychiatrist friend (Liv Tyler) tries to help Charlie overcome the loss of his family.
The Bob Dylan hairdo and Rain Man-esque mannerisms may not do him any favours, but this is still Sandler's best performance since Punch Drunk Love and the scenes where you catch a glimpse of the unimaginable pain he's carrying around are extremely moving. Cheadle is equally good, portraying a likeable character whose believable flaws make him all too easy for us to identify with.
As with his upcoming drama, The Upside of Anger (excellent, despite its delayed release), Binder writes terrific dialogue that's suffused with natural humour. The film is frequently laugh-out-loud funny and also manages to steer clear of the usual syrupy sentimentality, despite the film's powerfully emotional subject matter.
Worthy of particular mention on its own, the film has a terrific soundtrack (the title comes from a Who song) and some important observations about both grief and friendship.
Reign Over Me is a superbly written, thoughtful and ultimately moving drama that confirms Binder as a talent to watch. Highly recommended.
Reign Over Me (15)