Sunday, April 22, 2007

REIGN OVER ME - deeply affecting drama

I was surprisingly deeply affected by this post-9/11 drama, in which Adam Sandler of all actor plays a man suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Having lost his wife and three daughters in 9/11, he refuses to discuss his family, feigns memory-loss and retreats into a child-like world of take-out, video games and, bizarrely, kitchen remodelling. It is a desperately moving performance and triumphs over the fact that the character, Charlie Fineman, looks distractingly like a young Bob Dylan.

The triumph of the film is that writer-director Mike Binder approaches Charlie Fineman from a tangent. For much of the first hour of the film we are more concerned with Don Cheadle's character, Alan Johnson. Johnson is a fundamentally decent guy who loves his wife but hates his job and feels stifled by domestic bliss. It's a situation that many will sympathise with and gives us an "in" to the stranger Charlie-world. It's another stand-out performance from Cheadle. He strikes up a friendship with Fineman - an old college friend. Fineman helps Johnson have some fun; Johnson helps Fineman get therapy.

The movie proceeds at a measured pace, allowing the audience to enjoy the genuine chemistry between these two friends. Sensibly, the director shies away from a simplistic resolution - we leave Fineman pretty much as disturbed as when we meet him, although with more hope of recovery. But this is not a perfect film for two reasons. First, poor Saffron Burrows pilots a ridiculous sub-plot involving a traumatised women who deals with her suffering by making outlandish sexual overtures to Johnson. Second, there is a rather melodramatic denouement (saved only from a wickedly funny cameo from Donald Sutherland.)

Still, this remains a beautifully filmed, well-written and astoundingly well-acted movie.

REIGN OVER ME is already on release in Australia, the US, Argentina, Sweden, Italy and the UK. It opens in Malaysia and Serbia on May 17th, in Spain on June 29th, in Brazil, Belgium, France and Singapore in July, in Germany, Norway and Finland in August.


  1. i was honestly surprised to see you actually liked this.

    i haven't seen the movie,and don't intend to-no doubt it's a terrific one (i always trust ur reviews),but adam sandler in a dramatic role dsn't work for me.

    i read a couple of other reviews-some of em mentioned how the film simply used 9/11 as a backdrop,without properly relating to it.

    any truth to that?

  2. Hi Al, no one was more surprised than me to be genuinely moved by a genuinely dramatic performance by Sandler! In a way that's why I still do all this reviewing - because cinema can still surprise you on the upside no matter what your prejudices! As for the use of 911, it's not so much that they exploit it, but that this is a more generic film about grief. Anyone who has lost a loved one can relate. It's a truly fascinating film.