The story of any relationship is really two stories from two perspectives.
It’s a pretty basic concept but one that’s often lost on the big screen.
“The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” series from writer-director Ned Benson aims to rectify that; it’s three films, telling the story of a crumbling marriage from the perspective of the husband (“Him,” opening in October), the wife (“Her,” also out in October) and, in this joint version opening Friday, interweaving both.
James McAvoy plays Conor Ludlow and Jessica Chastain is Eleanor Rigby. Their marriage has been torn asunder by a tragedy and the movie finds these “lonely people” (to quote the eponymous Beatles song) struggling to pick up the pieces.
Conor struggles to keep his restaurant afloat, while Eleanor returns to school. They’re not really there, though. They’re floating through life, fading into the background, trying to make sense of the inexplicable.
It’s dreamy and evocative stuff without fetishizing the experience of grieving or succumbing to the usual cliches. A full picture of this relationship emerges in memories, silent reactions and images as deceptively simple as Conor watching Eleanor from across Astor Place.
The actors are sensational. Chastain, one of the best performers around, makes Eleanor simultaneously mysterious and deeply empathetic. As Conor, McAvoy turns the act of burying emotions into an art.
Benson assembled this combined version reportedly at the behest of mogul Harvey Weinstein. That might set it apart from “Him” and “Her,” which I haven’t seen. But were “Them” all there was to the “Rigby” experience, it’d still be enough.
Directed by Ned Benson | Starring Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy | Not Rated | Playing at Sunshine, Paris