Hubs and I watched Reign Over Me, starring Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler, last night. I was worried that it was going to be a real downer, but it was an amazing and ultimately uplifting film.
The movie tells the story of Alan Johnson (Cheadle), a Manhattan dentist who's feeling a bit stifled by his life. Everything looks good from the outside - a successful dental practice, a beautiful wife that loves him, sweet kids - but he finds himself oddly closed off and non-communicative.
Alan is driving one day, and he catches sight of Charlie Fineman (Sandler), his college roommate from dental school. Alan knows that Charlie lost his wife and three daughters in the Sept. 11 attacks (five years ago in the world of the movie). Though Alan has tried numerous times since then to make contact with Charlie, he's been unsuccessful. Eventually, Alan and Charlie reconnect, and Alan discovers that Charlie has steadily slipped away from reality since his horrible loss.
As the two men re-establish their friendship, they find they both benefit in different ways from being with one another. Alan feels less pressured by career and family obligations, and Charlie begins to confront the death of his family and what it has meant for him.
Though the storyline sounds grim, I laughed alot during this movie. Cheadle and Sandler both give solid performances (especially Cheadle - he is freaking amazing in this), and their joy at rediscovering one another makes for some wonderful moments on screen. Liv Tyler plays a sweet supporting role as a grief and loss counselor, and Donald Sutherland gives a dead-on fabulous cameo as an irritable judge. Despite the tragic timbre of the story, I never found it maudlin or emotionally manipulative. It seemed effortless. "This is what loss is like. This is what grief can do to you. This is how you can start to come out of it." The movie felt very true, somehow.
And it leads the viewer to ask some questions of him/herself. I mean, if I lost my family all at once like that, I like to think I'd be able to cope with it, but could I? How does one get past such a thing? How does one avoid becoming emotionally crippled by such devastation? It is both interesting and awful to ponder.