The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

Directed by Ned Benson
Starring Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Nina Arianda, Viola Davis, Bill Hader, Ciarán Hinds, Isabelle Huppert, William Hurt and Jess Weixler

by Joanna Orland

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is three movies in one.  Director Ned Benson wanted to tell the story of a relationship, but to do the narrative justice, he wanted to tell it from the perspective of Him (Connor played by James McAvoy) and Her (Eleanor played by Jessica Chastain).  The result is two films, or one 3 hour film of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him & Her which premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.  This was supposed to have been it for DOER, but after this first rendition debuted, commercial pressure kicked in and Benson decided he wanted a wider audience for his film, so condensed both into one all-encompassing feature – The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them.

DOER: Them is a fine romantic drama dealing with loss, bereavement and the end of a meaningful relationship.  The idea of perspective is a bit lost in this edit and the story plays out relatively straight.  If anything, Eleanor appears to be the main focus of the story as the central figure in the relationship troubles between her and Connor.  The normally excellent Chastain becomes a slight irritant in the film and is for the first time in her life, outperformed by an outstanding ensemble cast of supporting actors.

Viola Davis is the true star of this film in a supporting role as teacher and friend to Eleanor.  The fact that she’s likely not featured in the Him version of this film is a genuine disappointment.  William Hurt also gives one of the best performances of the film as Eleanor’s father, while Ciarán Hinds thrives as Connor’s.  Bill Hader as Connor’s best friend is a refreshing casting choice, taking him away from his typical comedic fare to remind the audience of his talent as an actor.  Casting Isabelle Huppert as Eleanor’s French mother is also a stroke of genius, and the most believable mother/daughter casting I have ever witnessed.

And then there is James McAvoy.  The Scottish actor has grown into one of the finest of his generation.  He takes on fantastical roles in X-Men and The Chronicles of Narnia, harsh and gritty characters such as Bruce in Filth, and then comes into this sensitive and underplayed dramatic role as Connor and with a mere look in his glimmering eyes, can convey all of the character’s emotions without a word spoken.

While the Them edit of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is missing something, I very much would like to continue this journey with Connor and Eleanor and find out what each has to say for themselves.  I look forward to Him & Her to gain perspectives on this sad story.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: James McAvoyJames McAvoy

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Ned BensonNed Benson

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