Sunday, February 14, 2010

"The Eclipse"

With the Spring Semester of my movie class starting in about a month, they began the bonus screenings this weekend with something of a thriller called "The Eclipse", starring folks you probably don't know, but Aidan Quinn has a small role.

Synopsis

When a widower starts hearing and seeing some rather strange things, he wonders if he's going mad ... or just dreaming ... or if he really is being haunted by ghosts!

Story

Michael Farr ( CiarĂ¡n Hinds ) is a widower raising his two adolescent kids alone -- that would be enough problems, for most people. However, when he suspects his house may be haunted, he begins investigating just what exactly might be the cause. Is he nuts? Are these dreams? Or are these actual ghosts? He can't be sure, so he starts looking into ghostly experiences on the Internet, all of the while still experiencing some rather creepy apparitions and his kids growing increasingly concerned about the weird behavior that their dad has been exhibiting lately.

While attending a local literary fair, he meets novelist Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle), author of "The Eclipse", a ghost story that suggests the author is most expert on these matters. Once they become acquainted, he shares his other-worldly experiences with her and they form something of an emotional bond. Eventually, after spending a considerable amount of time together, an attraction develops -- but of course, this does nothing to quell the supernatural occurrences in his life which are most disturbing, to say the very least. With his children worrying about his well being, he seeks Lena's help in understanding just exactly what the hell is going on here.

Eventually, he learns that Lena is being pursued by a successful, egotistical fellow novelist, Nicholas Holden (Quinn), who hopes to have an affair with Lena behind his wife's back. Jealous of the potential relationship that may be forming between Michael and Lena, Holden threatens him and proves something of an obstacle in Michael's goal to get a grip on his problem as well as develop his friendship with Lena. But with the literary fair drawing to a close and Lena needing to return to her life in London, can Michael really come to terms with these spectral events, or will he be forever doomed to be terrorized by them?

Review

So, is this really a thriller -- as I alluded to above -- or is it a romance? Or, better yet, is it a story about relationships and the human condition? Perhaps it's a quasi-thriller. Or perhaps it's all of those. Or maybe it's none of them. Yeah, that's the ticket. And therein lies the problem. This is a movie that's desperately in search of a genre and for the life of it, just can't manage to find one. Too bad, because much of the story telling -- and certainly, all of the performances -- deserve so much better as this is a well - done movie with much good acting by its cast.

There is certainly a lot to like about this movie, but it seems to keep fighting itself. When polled, the overwhelming majority of the class seemed to like this one. I, however, was in the minority, as was the instructor -- and those of us who disliked it seemed to be 100% on board with the exact same reasons why. First of all, the story meandered quite a bit and made it somewhat difficult to find a clear beginning, middle and end. Second, the end -- if you can call it that -- really seemed like more of a sudden stop; very little of the story felt as though it had been resolved, especially the ghostly aspects. Lastly, the rather horrifying and graphic ghost sequences appeared quite out of place with much of the gist of this film -- it really is about a widower's coming to terms with his late wife's death and learning how to move on with the rest of his life. The thriller aspects of this movie are sensationalistic, exploitative and generally take away from what might have been a truly wonderful film with an adult theme. That's quite a pity.

BTW, if you haven't already guessed, this movie was made in Ireland and is set in the present day. There are a great many beautiful scenes of the Irish countryside, but certainly, I can't recommend the film based on that alone. I really do wish this had been better told because it could've been quite a good story in the right hands, not just some spooky horror tale, which seems to have been the intent.