The Life Before Her Eyes

The Life Before Her Eyes
Director: Vadim Perelman
Screenwriter: Vadim Perelman
Cast: Uma Thurman, Evan Rachel Wood, Eva Amurri
Release Date: 2008-04-30
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Drama

If you concentrate very hard on the title of this film, you’ll be one step ahead of where Ukrainian director Vadim Perelman wants you.

I didn’t.

The Life Before Her Eyes, adapted from Laura Kasischke’s eponymous novel, is the kind of movie you watch because you like visual poetry — from the beginning it should be no secret to the cultivated movie-watcher that nothing’s what it seems. Why nothing is what it seems is more the question. Could it be the result of some
hallucinogenic drug that the main character,
Diana, has taken? Probable, as Evan Rachel Wood is doing her normal troubled-teenager thing here.

She sure does it well, but I’d like to see something new from her. The real bombshell is Eva Amurri, whom we haven’t seen since 2004’s Saved!. (Apparently she bothered to finish her education at Brown despite having access to Hollywood’s free pass for famous offspring — she’s Sarandon’s kid.) Anyone familiar with her character from that film will be convinced that Amurri could have easily rocked the lead in The Life Before Her Eyes; instead she one-eighties as Diana’s best friend and polar opposite, the reserved Maureen.

Together, the girls are caught in a bathroom during a horrific school shooting that the audience can only hear as Pawel Edelman’s camera focuses intently on Diana and Maureen, their faces transforming with realization.

Cut to the future, where a 15-years-aged Diana, played by Uma Thurman, is coping with her guilt on the anniversary of the mass murder. She has a husband and an unruly daughter of her own, not to mention some serious reality-distortion problems. And why are there cougars everywhere? Like I’m going to lay it out for you. (Even if I wanted to, I don’t have the space.)

If not for the painterly images, the swell acting, and the shock ending that’s built up to more elegantly than others (as I said, it’s no secret that some of the action occurs in fictional territory), I might have been as angry after Life as I was after Stay. Instead, I just walked out wondering how the novel was structured.