Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood gave terrific performances in The life before her eyes. Wood plays a high school student who witnesses a Columbine like massacre at her school. We get a view of her life, relationship with his best friend and her mother, particularly the days and weeks leading up to the tragic day. On the other hand Thurman plays the same woman 15 years in the future. There she is teaching art at a college and has a young daughter who keeps disappearing while playing. The conversations are often around the memorial organized at the school commemorating the 15th anniversary of the incident. She is undecided whether to go or not.
As if the story would not be compelling enough it is the cinematography makes the movie worth watching. This is Vadim Perelman‘s second movie. Having seen this I definitely want to see the first one, House of sand and fog. The first thing I liked about the visual experience was the flower shots. (The movie’s work title was In Bloom.) Using a limited palette, not much wider than primary colors and dreamlike contrasts it uses the visual language well that we learned to associate with dreams. Did you notice that dream sequences in most movies are using the same techniques? Real dreams however not really like that. Nevertheless watching enough movies our mind learns to identify these kinds of images as dreams and we do not even think about it any more. Then comes a movie like this where we are forced to question what a dream is and what reality is. I like when I have to work through dissonances like these. The break was enhanced by other aspect of the editing I liked. The music composed by James Horner (Apocalypto, Iris, Titanic…) is similarly dreamy, but when it is accompanying some slowed down sequences it sounds even more so. Good fit.
If it would be a murder mystery you would be disappointed to figure out at least halfway through the movie if not earlier, who the victim is. Maybe I am slow, and you would know from the very beginning, because of the title of the movie. It is clearly a reference to the assertion that we see version of our lives going through our eyes right before you fie. If that does not give enough clues, you might ponder upon how it is possible to see the adult life of Diana, supposedly 15 years in the future, while the shooting is set in the present. The movie shows plenty of cultural references, helping us to frame the period as the early 2000’s, but the future is void of hints defining the year.
From perspective the film supports pro-life, Christian morality. Two o the main characters are explicitly identified as “the virgin and the whore.” SPOILER ON: And the “whore” dies, presumably for her sins. Furthermore, we also know that she had an abortion accompanied by ravaging emotions. Therefore when the murderer asks who he should shoot from the two of them, she volunteers herself. She might be driven by guilt or by the recognition that the “virgin’s” life (and future untapped potentials) deserves more protection than her own. Whether I agree with this view or not the movie was terrific and I would recommend it in a heartbeat to anyone.