Directed by Sam Mendes
Written by Justin Haythe
Starring: Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kathy Bates, Zoe Kazan & Michael Shannon
In a way this scene epitomises what the film is about – in a way it is a battle of wills that echoes Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? but it is also much more introspective (look out for the constant close ups of April as she turns a teary eye into a faked smile; and of Frank as he contracts his face, always so at odds in showing how he claims he feels) and more focused on small moments (the breakfast table, a dance at a party) that spiral into big blown out fight scenes (outside the car, around the house). The Wheelers seem unhappy, and maybe they are, but both are so enraptured by their seemingness that is hard to get at what each really wants – it is not for nothing that Mendes turns again and again to shots of mirrors and reflective surfaces, reminding his audience that what these characters show is almost if not more important than what they are, think and feel. And that in itself is the true tragedy of this suburban couple that so vividly comes to life in the hands of two actors that in a decade of working apart come together to give us another tragically romantic story of a couple at odds with what the world has to offer them.
Mendes and his production team deserve a shout out for making this aching story such a beauty to watch: Roger Deakins’ cinematography beautifully plays with sunlit rooms that defy their own promise of warmth and homeliness; Kristi Zea’s production design meticulously recreates this mythic landscape of American suburbia; Albert Wolsky’s costumes are gorgeous (I fell in love with each of April’s dresses, and loved seeing 1950s beach wear) and lastly Thomas Newman (who already won me over with his WALL-E score earlier in the year) here just blew me away with a score that simmers and soars apace with Yates’ creations. A