“Remember that the heart is the body’s strongest muscle.”
Vadim Perelman’s (director of the fantastic House of Sand and Fog) exquisitely depressing film is a tale of guilt, redemption and friendship set amongst the backdrop of angst-filled high school years.
A beautiful story of two best friends, Maureen (Eva Amurri) and Diana (Evan Rachel Wood) on the cusp of adulthood, and their experiences after a devastating high-school shooting. Bursting in on the girls as they discuss their futures, the student gunman greets Diana (with whom he confided in about bringing a gun to school and shooting “everyone”), presents the two friends with a heartbreaking choice – which one of you should I kill?
After he presents this ultimatum to Diana and Maureen, the audience are able to guess the aftermath of the events by seeing Diana fifteen years later (played by Uma Thurman), who – from her very first scene – seems entirely troubled and haunted by events that transpired (survivor’s guilt).
As the audience are unaware of any of these events until the very end of this intelligent film, I can understand the frustration some viewers may have about the time it takes to get to the bottom of this psychological drama. I, however, was fully engrossed by The Life Before Her Eyes, and not least because of the fantastic performance from Evan Rachel Wood as a deeply jaded young woman. Unable to find her identity and, unable to grow, Diana suffers profound restlessness because of her small town and broken family. Along comes a devout Christian, Maureen, who unknowingly intervenes into Diane’s indirection and the pair become inseparable despite their emotional and religious differences.
“I don’t think that’s really true though, Maureen – about [the heart] being the strongest muscle. I don’t think in my case it is at all“
All around adult Diana are young (blonde) women who constantly remind her of who she used to be; the fiery, ‘anything goes’ young woman, which further drives Diana into a further depression. She has ironically become someone her younger self would have ridiculed in a heartbeat – suburban, “one of those hard women who’s angry all the time”.
The Life Before Her Eyes is at its heart, a story of redemption from personal failings and of the self. What happens when we’re faced with a life-changing decision and choose ourselves over the ones we love? What do we do when we envision our futures and are profoundly unhappy with it? How do we recognise the difference right and wrong?
“Conscience is the voice of God in the nature and heart of man”
- Vivid cinematography
- A twist M. Night Shyamalan would be proud of
- Great character focus/characterisation
- Thought-provoking philosophical themes
- Somewhat of a slow film for those not engaged
- Feels rushed and is a rather short film, considering its subject matter
A sucker for friendship films, I find that The Life Before Her Eyes is an incredibly powerful and simple insight into the true nature of what it is to be a friend and more importantly, what it is to have a friend. Despite our greatest insecurities, loving someone and being loved in return is one of the greatest aspects of the human condition.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends – John, 15:13