The intriguing Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée was on something of a high-profile roll after the mainstream success of his last two films Dallas Buyers Club and Wild, but hit a wall at the box office with this latest, his third film in as many years. It’s a challenging, unorthodox piece, an artful examination of the nature of grief recovery that poses difficult questions and doesn’t offer any reductively easy answers, so its commercial failure is perhaps not too surprising, but it’s something of a shame considering that there’s so much to admire here, not least of all another meticulous and perfectly-judged performance from Jake Gyllenhaal.

He’s clearly on a DiCaprio-like quest to win an Academy Award, but if it means we get something as good as this from him once a year then it’s hard to begrudge him for it. Gyllenhaal plays a man whose wife is killed in a car accident, and his grief leads him to behave increasingly erratically, over a period of a decade or so. It’s about as realistic and non-judgemental a portrayal of mourning as I think I’ve ever seen on film, surprisingly humorous and consistently recognisable. All this navel-gazing doesn’t quite come together at the end, providing little closure for its characters or satisfaction for the audience. Of course, that may well be the point.

An undeserved critical and commercial flop that should have found an audience7
Another quite simply brilliant central performance from Jake Gyllenhaal9
Sadly, the film around him doesn't quite match his work6
An admirably anti-Hollywood treatment of grief7
A final act that slightly falls apart and doesn't match what has gone before5
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
Bechdel Test Failures
  • None of the named female characters talk to each other
7Overall Score

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