The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is an interesting cinematic endeavor. It is a film that through its narrative examines a relationship dealing with loss and through it’s structure examines male/female perspective within that relationship. Written and directed by Ned Benson, his first feature was originally two separate films, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him. Both are included as extras on the disc, but the main feature is a spliced together edited version, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them.
THE MOVIEThe film tells of Eleanor (Jessica Chastain) and her husband Connor (James McAvoy) dealing with their marriage in the wake of their son’s death. Eleanor, after a failed suicide attempt, decides to move on from her life and husband to start afresh, moving back in with her parents and going back to college. Connor tries to accept and move on from the loss of his son while striving to reconnect with his absentee wife.
While the plot sounds somewhat lacking in originality, the approach to the story makes this film far more interesting. The story is a moving one, the performances genuine; however due to being an amalgamation of two distinct projects, the resulting release “Them” is somewhat uneven. There are pacing and structure issues, some moments in need of fleshing out, and certain emotional beats that are missed as a result. But moments are effective even if the whole is lacking — the whole in this case being a truncated version of an entire story. We all cope with loss in a particular way, notably in the difference between the sexes as well as individuals, and that is explored with aplomb.
One of the more consistent aspects of the film(s) are the performances. Not only are McAvoy and Chastain very effective and genuinely moving as the estranged couple but the supporting cast, including Viola Davis, Jess Weixler, Ciaran Hinds, Bill Hader, and William Hurt, do exemplary work too. Hurt in particular encapsulates the themes of the film with one monologue that is especially affecting.
The two components to this film, Her and Him, not only follow separate journeys but, when their paths cross, often use different takes showing the alternate perspectives. It’s nicely done and, while not as effectively used or as obvious as the His/Her angle in Showtime’s The Affair, it does give the release a rather unique facet. While merging the two pieces into one somewhat undermines the impact of the project and leaves the end result feels a little mainstream, the potency of the story and its characters remains. It’s affecting and insightful while also a cleverly conceived project; just be sure to view it in its entirety.
THE PACKAGEThe presentation of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby comes across as functional rather than fancy. The film itself is a somewhat dark and bleak affair and shows few frills visually. Transfer is fair with some muddier parts, blacks being murky at times and details lost. In brighter sequences details are far better, but overall the film lacks any visual impact. A fair transfer for a rather drab film.
Special features are sparse with just a Q&A featuring the stars. But a notable addition is the inclusion of the original His and Her cuts of the film, together running over 3 hours in length. While the main film is a interesting if disjointed effort, the addition of this “source material” elevates the production to a whole new level and allows for a deeper appreciation of Benson’s vision.
THE BOTTOM LINELooking at Disappearance as a whole, it offers a novel take on showing how a man and woman each cope with grief, both separately on their journey and also how their paths remain entangled. It is a deep, involved piece with some outstanding central and supporting performances. The main feature is somewhat uneven and drags occasionally primarily due to the structure of the amalgamated tales, but the overall result, when accompanied by the “His” and “Her” segments, marks an impressive and moving debut, very much worth checking out.
The Disappearance of Elanor Rigby is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD.