out of Five
Running time: 101
Impressively directed chamber piece with all four leads on top form.
We Don’t Live Here Anymore is adapted from two stories by Andre Dubus, who wrote the source material for In The Bedroom and is therefore not the cheeriest of writers. (His son wrote The House Of Sand And Fog, so clearly it runs in the family). Rest assured, however, that We Don’t Live Here Anymore is no tragedy-laden doom-fest; instead it’s a well-acted, frequently insightful film about the effect of adultery on two couples.
Family Men Embark On Affairs
Mark Ruffalo and Peter Krause (Nate from Six Feet Under) play Jack and Hank, two married family men who work as college professors in a small, peaceful New England town. As well as being colleagues, they are also friends: they run together, drink together and have frequent boozy get-togethers with their wives, Terry (Laura Dern) and Edith (Naomi Watts). However, Jack is unhappy and begins an affair with Edith, who, in turn, feels unloved by Hank. And when Terry finds out, it’s adultery-a-go-go as she has a fling with Hank to get back at Jack.
“Adultery” and “We Don’t Live Here Anymore”, the two stories that form the basis for the film, explored the same characters but from different perspectives. They were both written in the mid to late 1970s, which might account for the fact that the time-period feels unspecific - it’s curious, for example, that neither Terry nor Edith have jobs.
The interesting thing about the film is that none of the characters are entirely sympathetic, which actually forces you to sympathise with everyone equally, although, that said, Hank out-bastards Jack by some way.
The acting is excellent and it’s pleasing to see Peter Krause make such an effective transition from the small screen – his irritatingly cheerful selfishness is occasionally reminiscent of his character in Six Feet Under, which may well be the reason he was cast. Mark Ruffalo gives a typically brilliant performance as a man who knows what he’s doing is wrong but just can’t stop himself – in one scene he berates himself in the mirror, telling himself to “just make love to your wife and eat a fucking lobster”. (Lobsters feature heavily from that point, acting as a sort of crustacean guilt metaphor).
Impressive Emotional Drama
Naomi Watts and Laura Dern are both superb – their characters are both spiteful and sympathetic in equal measure. There’s a particularly tense scene in which Edith makes love to Jack in her own kitchen (with Hank and their daughter upstairs) out of pure revenge; both Edith and Terry’s response to being deeply hurt is to lash out horribly.
In addition to getting great performances out of his cast, director John Curran also adds some neat directorial touches – for example, on a couple of occasions, when Terry says something innocuous to Jack, there are split-second flashbacks to a younger Terry saying the same line but in happier times and with a smile on her face. This serves to reinforce the sense of what has been lost in their marriage as well as hinting that it’s not too late to get it back.
In short, We Don’t Live Here Anymore is an impressively directed, emotional drama about morality and adultery, truth and friendship. It also has terrific performances from its four leads. Recommended.