DVD Review – Life During Wartime

Life During Wartime, Todd Solondz’ most recent film takes place ten years after the events of Happiness, and catches up with the lives of the three sisters, Helen, Joy and Trish.

In the ten years since we last saw them, Trish (Allison Janney) has moved out to Florida and is happy and content, in a brand new relationship, full of hope for the future. Helen (Ally Sheedy) is now a successful screenwriter, dating Keanu Reeves, and Joy (Shirley Henderson), experiencing marital troubles with Alan, travels out to Florida and California to see both sisters.

As you’d expect from Solondz this is another darkly comic little film that pulls very few punches and pays no heed to the audience’s squirming discomfort at what we see on the screen. Both Trish and Joy are still deeply haunted by the past (in Joy’s case, almost literally, as she converses with long since dead Andy), but determined to ensure that their future is sunnier.

Roger Ebert said of “Happiness” that Solondz “hears the unhappiness in the air and seeks out its sources” and the same can be said of Life During Wartime. The characters are haunted and disturbed by their pasts, while trying to look for either the ability to forgive or forgiveness itself. Solondz himself said that this is his most political film and the themes of terrorism and possible retribution lie close to the surface.

Solondz has completely recast the film, ensuring we have no preconceptions from what we’ve seen before, forcing us to view the situations and characters anew. The film is a combination of blackly comic moments and jaw dropping honesty, beautifully underplayed by all the cast. This tale of suicide, paedophilia and loss of hope could have been played as high drama but instead has a lightness of touch that belies the story behind it.

Of the leads, Henderson and Janney are exactly as good as you would expect. Young actor Dylan Riley Snyder, who plays Timmy, Trish’s son, captures the role perfectly. His attempts to be “the man of the house”, whilst coming to terms with the knowledge his father is a paedophile, but not quite understanding what that means, are touching and honest.

Ciaran Hinds as Bill plays him with underlying menace, yet honesty. As in Happiness, he is no bogeyman, and still looks to try and find forgiveness and a place in a world revolted by his actions.

Solondz shies away from happy ever afters and easy resolutions, delivering a movie that stays with you long after the final credits. Whilst not for everyone, this is a quirky and moving film that ably shows how we endure the worst that life can throw at us.

Life During Wartime is released on DVD by Artificial Eye on the 12th July

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~ by moviegrrlreviews on June 10, 2010.

2 Responses to “DVD Review – Life During Wartime”

  1. Hmmm… looks good.

    This has gone under my radar – shall check it out!

  2. […] This review by Moviegrrl. […]

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