However I got the titles of the showings mixed up and I headed in, and you know what? I loved it. This is a wonderful character based film that really does touch the heart and connect on a personal and very emotional level. I loved it.
The story is about a dysfunctional family who seem to have grown apart for some reason. The brother and sister hardly talk and their father has been estranged for a very long time. Through some terrible events the family are pulled back together, despite their best efforts, and they are forced to try to get on. Yes I know it does sound a little formulaic but that's so far from the truth.
1 hour 53 minutes
The first thing I really have to mention are the leads. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney are superb in the film, with both giving fantastic performances that are so natural and believable. Linney is a personal favourite of mine and she just portrays a real person so easily, I forget that these are actors and get drawn into their characters so quickly it always surprises me. Here is no exception and I was so emotionally entangled with them and feeling their emotions.
I often find it hard to get right into characters to the point where you can identify with them and understand their decisions, here though was no problem, particularly with Philip Seymour Hoffman who I could so easily connect with and understand.
Philip Bosco, who plays the father, also gives a great performance, although there's not that much for his character to do since he's suffering from dementia, there are a few incredibly touching scenes with him, and he portrays the confusion and anger wonderfully well.
Behind it all is a great script that is very natural without a word seeming out of place or character. Everything that the characters say and do seems so very real and natural, even down to the moments where they hold back and bury themselves internally.
It seems that instead of following Hollywood example and explaining everything, Tamara Jenkins, the writer and director, has really observed people and how they behave and brought that to their characters, characters that are brought to life so well by Linney and Hoffman.
The film does turn from being incredibly serious and heartbreaking to being funny so easily, taking you from a moment with tears welling up and sadness heavy in your heart, to a moment of a blurted out, amused snort - okay, well it certainly did that for me. It's not laugh out loud comic funny though, it's more comic on an observational level, capturing something that you find amusing about the situation or the character and that you can easily connect with.
However it's also incredibly poignant. The early moments with the father are heartbreaking and really delve deep into personal fear, but one of the best scenes where all the elements come together perfectly, is where the brother and sister are arguing in the car and the father turns his hearing aid down, and pulls his hood up to shut out the fight. Everything is perfect at that moment, from the look on his face to the sound, and it shows his pain, sadness and the fact that he may be more aware than they give him credit for, wonderfully.
There are many moments like that which can move you to tears and make the characters and their situations so incredibly real. It also doesn't hold back in the way it looks at the harder and more difficult aspects of the characters situations, and from these moments it still manages to find humour, as well as poignancy and heart.
The film does make you think about how we treat the elderly and what you would do in this situation if you had an aged parent that began suffering from dementia. It also confronts the process of dying head on, but never really makes any judgements, just lets the characters run their course with events. So you can probably guess how easily it can make you feel the emotional weight of the story.
Yet remember that there's humour in there too, as well as some very positive messages. There's also a slight slant of quirkiness that travels throughout the film, however it never negatively affects the characters so as to place them in some hyper reality, slightly out of reach. The moments are confined to representations of the opening retirement village or to choices in the soundtrack, all of which seem a little odd but fit really well.
Filming wise there's nothing really that stands out, and I really do mean that in a good way. It concentrates on the performances, the intimacy of the characters and the moments, and the reality of the story. What is perhaps the most stand out aspect of the camera is that it knew when to turn away and what not to show, which combined with a script that isn't afraid not to respond or to respond in silence, makes for an excellent film.
A superb script, strong natural filming, fantastic performances from wonderfully natural actors, and we get an extremely touching and moving film which really does capture your heart and emotion. I'd wholeheartedly recommend The Savages for something more intelligent, meaningful and moving without ignoring the need for some lighter looks at life.