Film Review: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him (★★★½)

disappearance_of_eleanor_rigbyAs many of you know, there are three versions of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby that exist. You’ve probably read my review of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her by now (found here), so today I’m getting into its companion piece The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him. Initially meant to be seen back to back before it was determined that a combined cut called The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them would be first out of the gate, each version has its charms, but the Her and Him cuts stand tall. I stated that Her was my preferred one, and I stand by that, but it takes nothing away from Him at all. With perhaps the best performance I’ve ever seen from James McAvoy (and a terrific supporting turn from Ciarán Hinds), filmmaker Ned Benson gives you a different but just as compelling version of the story he’s telling from multiple angles. In many ways, this is very much a mirror to the Her take on the material, with Him being both the same and quite different. Combined, they make for a very profound and touching love story (combined in a different way they also make the Them take on the tale), one well worth seeing. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him is enhanced by its partner, but it can certainly stand on its own as well, making it basically just as essential viewing.

In this version of the story, we obviously follow the dissolution of the marriage from the perspective of husband Conor Ludlow (McAvoy) instead of wife/title character Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain). This time around, we see more of the perceived happiness in the relationship, with the tragedy and event that sends Eleanor away taking its time to be revealed. Conor more outwardly emotes, complaining to the chef in his bar/best friend Stuart (Bill Hader), while moving in with his estranged father Spencer (Hinds). When he finds out that Eleanor is taking classes in the city, he goes in search of her, leading to scenes we saw in Her from the other side of the coin. A few pivotal scenes in particular are shown with just a subtle enough difference to realize that each is remembering moments differently than the other. For Conor, this part of the two part story if you will is about trying to win Eleanor back, even in spite of the chasm between them, one that he’s at least partly responsible for.

20140709_UR_Upcoming_Release_The_Disappearance_Of_Eleanor_Rigby_840_473_100As you’d expect, this one is anchored by the performance of James McAvoy, along with top notch supporting work from his co-stars. McAvoy leads the charge with the best performance I’ve ever seen from him, but I don’t want to take anything away from Ciarán Hinds, who much like Jess Weixler (who’s sadly unseen in this one) nearly steals Her, Hinds nearly steals Him. The chemistry Hinds shares with McAvoy is perfect, and a moment the two spend together at a restaurant in the third act is probably the most heartbreaking work in any part of this tale. Both Hinds and McAvoy are aces there. Much like how McAvoy is a bit under seen in Jessica Chastain’s section, Chastain is under served a bit here in McAvoy’s. Their scenes together still sparkle though. Bill Hader continues to impress me with a turn here that reminded me a bit of how great he is in The Skeleton Twins. Also in the cast we have Nina Arianda, but Hinds and McAvoy are where it’s at, though Chastain is hardly bad. You just don’t get the same thing that you get from her in her own section. This one really does belong to McAvoy, and he impresses.

The same things I said about filmmaker Ned Benson last time holds true once again here. He has done yeoman’s work, plain and simple. He’s got a wonderful visual style as a director, as well as a patience that allows things to play out at a slightly slower pace than you’d expect. If he has a weakness, it’s that his script can delve into clichés and is on the nose here and there, but that’s not to say that his writing is bad at all, since it’s not. The screenplay is just not on the same level as the direction, aided in part by DP Chris Blauvelt. Once you see all three versions, you really marvel at how he told both one and three stories all at the same time in a way. The aforementioned moment between Hinds and McAvoy is something you won’t forget for a long time.

Much like with The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her, we have a moving portrait of a love story here with The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him, though this is only one version and a purposely incomplete look at what happened to the couple. I admire this film a great deal and love how it partners with its mate, which obviously offers the other side of the coin for the work. Notably here for the performances by Hinds and McAvoy, this is another version not to miss, believe me there. Benson is a filmmaker that’s going big places too before long, so take note of him folks. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him is another hard movie to shake off, but it’s also just a very good one as well (both are better than The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, but if you see these two, you really should check that one out as well, since it’s strong work). One more time, this is a flick not to miss.

-Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!