Things We Lost in the Fire
- Halle Berry as Audrey Burke
- Benicio Del Toro as Jerry Sunborne
- David Duchovny as Brian Burke
- John Carroll Lynch as Howard
- Alison Lohman as Kelly
Susanne Bier’s first foray into American film is an intimate study of grief and addiction. Bolstered by two restrained and very powerful performances by Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro, Things We Lost in the Fire is a hopeful film showing the connection between two wounded characters as they attempt to stay afloat in a sea of grief.
Audrey Burke is a mother mourning the death of her husband Brian, who was killed whilst trying to defend a woman from her abusive partner. She shuts down emotionally and forms a protective shell around herself to protect her young children, Harper and Dory from her own grief. At Brian’s funeral, Jerry Sunborne, Brian’s friend who he attempted to help through his intense heroin addiction, turns up to pay his condolences. Audrey has never liked Jerry and believed Brian was wasting his time in his attempt to help his friend kick his habit. But after seeing how caring he is with her children, she asks him to move into her garage. Her invitation is not a romantic gesture, it is far from that. She just wants someone to be there as she tries to readjust to life after her shocking loss. Audrey and Jerry both have an impact on the other as they connect through grief, heartbreak and addiction. Examined in non-linear fashion, Susanne Bier crafts a moving movie about the need to connect , how powerful an emotion grief is and how we all deal differently we deal with it.
Refreshingly in Things We Lost in the Fire, Audrey and Jerry don’t fall in love as is the case with other movies. They connect after initial reluctance and see how much the other meant to the deceased Brian. The intimate screenplay delves deeply into the emotions of grief and anger with moving results. There are occasional times in which the movie lapses into melodrama, but Susanne Bier manages to create a deeply human movie despite the contrivances. Her camerawork is a marvel to watch as it zeroes on the tiniest emotional nuances between Audrey and Jerry. Her use of close-ups of eyes may put some off, but I personally thought it added a personal and subtle impact to the emotions displayed through the eyes. What I admired the most about Susanne Bier’s direction is her scenes of silence in which body language provide us with a heart of the story. The evocative score, mostly composed of an acoustic guitar, is organic and gets to the heart of the subtle emotions on display.
Susanne Bier draws two emotionally subtle performances from Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro. Halle Berry plays Audrey with a subtle emotional core, we watch as she shuts down and keeps her emotions bottled up in order to survive her pain. She doesn’t come across as cold, but rather shielding herself from having to deal with what has happened. When she does let her emotions out, we see all of the anger and suffering she has endured since her husband’s death. It is a moving and convincing performance by Halle Berry. Benicio Del Toro is amazing as Jerry, the drug addicted friend of Brian who is actually a decent man caught in difficult circumstances and attempting to stop his habit. He is by turns caring, frightening but above all sympathetic as we see how Brian never gave up faith on his best friend. As the deceased Brian seen in flashback, David Duchovny is reliably warm-hearted as the good guy whose life ended tragically. In small but effective roles, John Carroll Lynch and Alison Lohman play an unhappy neighbour and a recovering addict.
Hopeful, filled with deep emotion and two stunning lead performances, Susanne Bier’s Things We Lost in the Fire is a drama of emotion and recovery that is moving and movingly observed.