By Don Morton
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him/Her
February 12, 2015
It’s a powerful cinematic experiment. Two back-to-back films examine the breakup and attempts to get back together of a married couple from the characters’ respective viewpoints. These two have clearly loved each other, and perhaps still do, and want to know if they still have a future in the wake of some not-immediately-explained personal tragedy.
It sounds a bit artsy and unwieldy, I know, but it quickly gets under your skin. I’m still thinking about these people. Its success is due in part to the sure hand of first-time director Ned Benson, a good script and the consummate skill of the actors playing the pair. James McAvoy, sporting a flawless American accent, is the “him,” and the astounding Jessica Chastain, the “her.”
The films can be seen in either order, but I’d nudge you toward seeing Him first, like I did, because Her is the stronger film and fills out the whole. Watch for the telling discrepancies in the few replayed scenes. (There’s also a reedited “Them” version, unseen by me, that interleaves the two.) Also William Hurt, Isabelle Huppert, Viola Davis, Ciaran Hinds and Bill Hader. Japanese title: Love Stories: Conor no Namida and Eleanor no Aijō. (Him: 89 min, Her: 100 min)