Things We Lost in the Fire (2007) directed by Susanne Bier, starring Halle Berry, David Duchovny and Benicio Del Toro. Berry plays Audrey Burke, a recently widowed woman trying to deal with the death of her husband Brian (played by Duchovny). As the story progresses, she seeks help from Brian’s childhood best friend Jerry Sunborne (played by Del Toro), a recovering drug addict.
Throughout the story, we are presented with flashbacks that convey Audrey and Brian’s married life as well as Brian and Jerry’s relationship. Here the viewer witnesses that Audrey and Brian’s life is not without problems; however, they are still very much in love. The main issues seem to stem from Brian and Jerry’s relationship as Audrey has never liked him. As the story progresses, Audrey invites Jerry to stay with her family in order to cope, and Jerry sort of adopts the role of Brian – spending time with Brian’s children and Audrey, going on jogs with Howard (Brian’s neighbour played by John Carroll Lynch) and injecting some much needed humour into this situation. We also witness Brian being murdered which is an emotional part of the movie. After trying to intervene in a domestic incident where a man is beating up his wife in public, Brian is shot. This shows his heroism and demise.
There is some nice character growth in this film. In one of the flashbacks, Brian’s son struggles to put his head under water when they go swimming. Brian fails to get him to do so. When Jerry goes swimming with him after Brian’s death, he is able to do just that with little effort. This clearly depicts some growth within these respective characters but also regret at the fact Brian would never be able to see this.
On the subject of relationships, Audrey feels like Sunny takes without giving anything in return. In an early flashback, there is a touching scene that draws on this subject when Audrey and Brian are discussing this. Brian’s retort is that Sunny remembers and cares about things regarding Brian and looks out for him – that is a true friend.
Del Toro turns in a very good performance as a flawed man struggling with his inner demons. He is likeable in his flaws, and I found myself rooting for him throughout the story. He attends regular recovery meetings in the story which displays his desire to recover from drugs. Through Sunny’s relapses in the story, Audrey adopts Brian’s role in providing the help he needs during this difficult time. Halle Berry also puts in a good performance, and is very believable in playing her role. Berry and Del Toro have good onscreen chemistry, and Duchovny is not a disappointment either despite having only limited screen time. The same can be said about the other supporting cast. Allan Loeb (the writer of the film) manages to balance a number of subplots and craft an array of three dimensional characters which I was impressed with. There is also a lot of symbolism involving water in this film. The opening scene involves Brian telling his son (when discussing what colour the water in the swimming pool was) that florescent means lit from within. When Brian’s son asks if he is florescent, Brian replies that he is. This comes full circle as the movie’s penultimate scene features a picture of Brian and his family being distorted by water. Maybe this is commenting that we are all lit from within.
My initial thoughts of this movie are that it’s a very accurate portrayal of grief and human relationships. Due to losing someone recently, I could really connect with some of the occurrences in the film. Overall, there are some strong themes in this movie complemented by some good performances from the cast and it is definitely worth a watch.
By Robert Spence