This is the year of experimental film. Earlier in the season we had Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” and now we have Ned Benson’s “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby.” Benson made two films “Him” and “Her” capturing each perspective to service two different structured films. The third film, “Them,” acts as a more “theater friendly” version and bridges both perspectives together.
In “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them,” the disappearance is a metaphor built on the emotional crux of heartbreak. The film spans the gamut of Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain) and Conor Ludlow’s (James McAvoy) marriage from the happy impulsive dine-and-ditch couple to estranged individuals dealing with the loss of their infant son. Each point of view tries to piece together the jigsaw — for Eleanor it’s finding herself after a suicide attempt, and for Conor it’s processing Eleanor’s distance and his own loss.
amNewYork spoke with McAvoy to get his side of the story.
Was it weird having two films become a third after the Weinsteins bought the rights?
I think it’s a really good thing because there’s people out there that can’t afford to go to the cinema twice in one month. Then again people don’t have to wait two years for a sequel. They can watch two films that are just as in-depth and give a new element of the story.
What made you sign on to this project?
Ned Benson’s incredible script. It turned me off at first. I said no four years ago because I had just had a baby and I didn’t want to go near the subject matter. Two years ago he sent it to me again and it wasn’t so raw and fresh, so then I hooked up.
Jessica Chastain seems like the best scene partner to have. There’s the dark times and levity in those fun impulsive moments that are explored. How was it to work with her?
It was great. She’s so open as a performer and it’s something I’ve always tried to make a connection [with] — vulnerability and openness. Sometimes you come up against people who equally represent that. I always thought that if you don’t know what you’re doing than just look into the person’s eyes of the person you’re acting with. It’s hard to fake that.
People are bound to come up with polarizing opinions about “Them.” Some may gravitate toward the mother because mothers by nature are more empathetic figures.
Yeah I’ve had my own experiences with that. Don’t get me wrong, women have got the hard end of the stick through childbirth and parenthood but no one gives a [expletive] about the dad. You’ll be holding the child and changing their [diaper] and they’ll say, “Well what does mommy think?” and mommy turned up halfway through the meeting! Maybe people will gravitate more toward the mother because her loss is physical and my loss is emotional.
Did you guys break down the script to see each other’s perspective?
I tried very hard not to remember anything about her script from the read through. I didn’t want to know what she was doing. In Conor’s head she’s disappeared so I didn’t want to know about a bonding moment between her and the dad.
Where would you like to see the two characters end up?
They might get back together and they might not, but I think they’re both going to end up happier, and that’s all you can try to aim for in life is to be content and happy.