When this intriguing and original film was first screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, it surprisingly didn't have a release date. Fortunately, The Globe and Mail reports that less than 24 hours after viewing its Toronto screening, distributor Harvey Weinstein scooped it up. And that's a very good thing — no one should have to miss out on this clever and creative story-telling.
Imagine, for a second, that a friend comes to tell you about his terrible break-up. You hear about how hurt he is and how devastatingly it ended, and you feel for him 100 per cent. But then a few days later, you happen to run into his ex and you hear her side of the story. Suddenly, the break-up doesn't seem so clear. Who's "at fault" is murky, and what really brought the relationship to a close is a complex and intricate issue. That's precisely the mystery that Ned Benson brings to us in his new film, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her. Rather than simply showing the complex issues of a marriage from one character's point of view, Benson created two separate but united films — one told from the point of view of the husband, and the second from that of the wife. Not only does Benson tackle the issue of perspective — but he also weaves in the subject of memory. What might initially seem like continuity errors between the two halves are quickly revealed to have far more significance and ultimately tell an equally affecting tale. Some differences are subtle, while some are striking — but all showcase how our perspectives subjective, but so too are our memories.
At the beginning of the movie, the lively and upbeat Conor (James McAvoy) and Eleanor (Jessica Chastain) are in a quickly disintegrating marriage. What follows are the stories of how each of them got to where they are, as individuals and as a couple, and where they hope to go. McAvoy and Chastain have proven themselves to be brilliant actors in their own rights — and, if you can believe it, they're even more dynamic and captivating together. Their deep understanding of the story paired with their commitment to the roles and intense chemistry makes this story enthralling to watch from beginning to end.
The one aspect that may have made it harder for this exceptional film to get a wide release is its length. Since it's essentially two separate films, it has a running time of three hours and ten minutes — and not everyone has the patience required. To combat this challenge, The Globe and Mail notes there has been some talk of showing the films each on their own rather than as a combined unit. Although the performances are spectacular, the writing compelling, and the direction well done in each film, it seems to me that a lot of the brilliance of the film's structure would be lost without the two parts together. It's the clever balancing act between the two perspectives and the way they address how much we can trust our memories that make The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her so unique and captivating. If you were to take away the "Him and Her" in favour of one pronoun or the other, I feel you would lose a great deal of what makes the film special. It might be a longer haul as far as romantic dramas go, but I beg you to grab your popcorn — and a sizeable coffee if necessary — and settle in for the full three hours. This powerful and invigorating tale is worth the time.