Just judging from the official trailers and the short description on the back of the Things We Lost in the Fire DVD case, this didn’t seem to be a movie I’d ordinarily be interested in. It’s not an action film, but instead deals more with character growth and development as two people come to grips with the loss of a loved one. While I occasionally do watch movies of this type, I usually find them insufferably boring to sit through.
But Things We Lost in the Fire got such good reviews from critics and viewers that I decided to go against my better judgment and rent it. You’d think that after the hundreds and hundreds of films I’ve watched, I’d have learned by now to trust my instincts, but clearly that’s not the case at all. I found that out the hard way — yet again — as I ended up being just as bored by this film as I feared.
Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Brian (played by David Duchovny) and Audrey Burke (Halle Berry) have a terrific marriage and a wonderful home life. They’ve been together for 11 years, have a 10-year-old daughter named Harper (Alexis Llewellyn) and a six-year-old son named Dory (Micah Berry), and really couldn’t be happier. Indeed, the only bone of contention in Brian and Audrey’s marriage is his continued friendship with Jerry Sunborne (Benicio Del Toro), a down in the dumps heroin addict that Brian has known since childhood.
Audrey’s life changes forever one night when police officers show up at her front door to tell her that Brian has been shot and killed after trying to intervene in a domestic dispute that spilled out into the street. Audrey and the kids are obviously devastated by the news, but somehow must find a way to go on.
Audrey makes sure that Jerry gets invited to the funeral, probably because she knows in her heart that Brian would have wanted it that way. She then takes things a step further by inviting Jerry to move into as spare room off the garage, telling him he can turn his life around if he gets a fresh start like this.
Jerry agrees, and the rest of the film then deals with the way he and Audrey help each other come to terms with Brian’s death. They don’t do this by having long talks about Brian or by starting up a sexual relationship with each other; instead, they each seem to draw strength simply by having the other person around. Along the way, they deal with other issues as well, including stuff with the kids, a relapse on Jerry’s part, and Audrey’s intense loneliness.
My Reaction: As I said above, I found Things We Lost in the Fire to be incredibly boring for the most part. I think part of the problem was that I spent a lot of time just hoping that Jerry and Audrey wouldn’t hook up. That would have destroyed the movie completely, so it’s good that the screenwriter decided not to go down that road.
Even so, there were still several uncomfortable scenes when it looked like a hookup was imminent — like when Audrey begged Jerry to come to bed with her just so she could feel someone by her and get some sleep. The whole tugging the ear thing was creepy (and a little gross), which took me right out of the movie.
There wasn’t much of a plot beyond the basic premise of two people trying to move on. I could see why Audrey would be crushed by the loss of her husband, but Jerry’s reaction to Brian’s death was a bit harder to swallow. Sure, he lost a lifelong friend and all. But would a junkie really have bothered to make such sweeping changes after the funeral? I don’t know, it all seemed rather sudden and convenient that Jerry was so willing to start over with Audrey.
Overall, Things We Lost in the Fire just dragged too much for my tastes. A solid performance by Benicio Del Toro was not enough to save this film for me, so I give it only 2 stars out of 5.