“All I want is a chance to just talk it out. After that you can disappear to wherever it is you disappear to.”
To be honest I had no idea what this film was about before going into it. All I knew is that it starred Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, two of the most talented actors I’ve seen in the past few years. The title had me fooled because I was expecting this sort of suspenseful thriller similar to Gone Girl. During the first scenes I was lamenting that Chastain would probably only be in a few scenes since she would eventually disappear, but what a fool I was. This was actually a romantic drama (or should I say anti-romantic drama?) with two strong lead performances centering on a couple who have experimented a tragedy in their lives and aren’t capable of coping with it together. They’ve become distant and love seems to be only a far away memory. In a sense it has a similar style as Blue Valentine where you get flashbacks of the couple when they were in love contrasting with their present situation. While watching this film I had no idea that director Ned Benson had actually made two movies about The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby from the view point of each of the characters (His and Hers). The version I was watching was a compilation of both those films, summarized in two hours going back and forth from both their view points. It was no wonder I felt like something was missing in this story. If you were to watch both original versions of Benson’s film the running time would be over three hours long, but in Them the film is cut into a two hour film. I never felt like I got a sense of who these characters were in this version and I wonder how much it had to do with the fact that so much was cut out of the film. After experiencing Benson’s two hour joint film I have no intentions of watching the separate films because I was incredibly disappointed with how vague and void this character study felt. By the end of the film I couldn’t relate to either character and felt like they did around their parents when they had no clue what they were talking about (they both use this same line towards their parents in at least a couple of occasions).
Despite the slow pace of the film (the two hours actually felt like three) I was still hooked with the story expecting it to head somewhere. Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy are such great actors that they held my interest in the film and they were a pleasure to watch. The story unfolds in such a way that you don’t get much of a sense as to what is happening. As we get some flashbacks we begin to understand what triggered the couple to grow apart from one another, but some things are missing. There are also very strange relationships that Chastain’s character has with her parents (Isabelle Huppert and William Hurt). She also shares a few scenes with a Professor she begins to take classes with played by Viola Davis, but those scenes also felt disconnected from the entire film. The same thing happened with McCoy’s character and the odd relationship he has with his father (Ciaran Hinds). He owns a restaurant/bar and works with his close friend played by Bill Hader with whom he also shares some strange and misplaced scenes together. Perhaps it was the way that both films were joined together, but I felt like something important was left out and I wasn’t able to engage with the characters despite enjoying the performances. Chastain is fantastic and continues to get better over time. She has had stellar roles this year in Interstellar, A Most Violent Year, and now this. Perhaps her breakout role came in 2011 with Take Shelter and The Tree of Life, but she had already collaborated with Ned Benson a year before for one of his short films, The Westerners. If you are a fan of Chastain’s work I’d recommend this film, but otherwise I’d suggest you to watch the two separate films because Them felt incoherent and incomplete at times.