Not only had I not heard of this movie before it arrived this morning, I knew nothing about it before I put on this evening, other than that the gorgeous Jennifer Connelly was in it.
I think this story would have worked exceptionally well in the book that it was taken from. Books have the ability to go slow and be beautifully written, but for me I'm never convinced that it can translate well into film. A passage of prose discussing the difficulties of addiction, solitude and the failure of dreams can be so much more expressive than what can be shown visually. Which straightaway for me meant that this film was always going to be a poor substitute for the novel.
As it is the acting is exceptional, all four of the main characters so much depth and range - who knew that was possible for a Wayan?!? On top of that the cinematography was sublime and really took you into the feelings, hopes and despairs of the characters in a way that dialogue simply couldn't.
But having said that I still think the film really struggled to get to grips with the story that it wanted to tell. For me I will take two things from the film.
Firstly, a wonderful scene between the mother and her son, where she expresses her isolation, boredom and neglect by all around her - why do I bother to make my bed in the morning, wash the dishes, etc. no one is ever going to see them because no one ever comes to visit. I find it haunting because I think that is so easy to get to that stage. The exchange between mother and son is so simple and so well crafted, but I'm not sure it really gets the right message to me about addiction.
Secondly, I think the way that we deal with people suffering from addictions is abhorrent. In fact I think the way we in society deal with anyone with a mental health difficult is much the same. Which again wasn't really what the final scenes of the film were supposed to show; the slip and slide into addiction and the consequences of it were overshadowed by an extraordinary lack of civility shown by those in society who were dealing with those who were addicted.
It is a very interesting movie, but I'm not sure it really does what it needs to make it into the Top 100 movies of all time. I'm going to read the book at some point, and hope that it is as good as I expect.