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We Don't Live Here Anymore

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jan
We Don't Live Here Anymore
from Film Forum, 08/26/04

Director John Curran's We Don't Live Here Anymore is a hard-hitting, raw, "wages-of-sin" tale, powerfully acted by a first-rate cast, featuring Mark Ruffalo (Collateral), Laura Dern (Jurassic Park), Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive), and Peter Krause (TV's Six Feet Under). The story, a fusion of two short stories by Andre Dubus, shows us in gory detail a very simple lesson: If you're married and have kids, it's a really bad idea to sleep with your best friend's spouse.

For some viewers, the angst, ugly behavior, deceit, foul language, and explicit sexuality will be too offensive. But it's important to note that while movies often glorify adultery in the name of a "seize-the-day" morality, here is one of those rare films that tells it like it is. Curran's film exposes the stomach-turning truth about infidelity and what it does to marriages and families. The actors show a remarkable and intuitive understanding of their characters and the rugged emotional terrain. For their achievements, the filmmakers, the storyteller, and the cast—especially Ruffalo—deserve praise.

There are a few intriguing metaphors glimmering here and there, like the dialogue between two of the children about how some people believe we came from apes and others believe we came from Adam and Eve. Sure enough, the adults are struggling to decide whether to behave like animals or like the sons and daughters of God. But, unfortunately, while the film is both true in its storytelling and excellent in its craftsmanship, it's just not terribly interesting.

"The theme … is indeed adultery," writes Harry Forbes (Catholic News Service). "And though for a while the film treats these characters' philandering with alarming nonchalance … we can see right from the start the emotional consequences of their actions, including the effects on their children. The institution of marriage goes through the wringer, but ultimately, the film offers a moral resolution, and throughout you do sense that all the characters are struggling with the consequences of their actions."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) writes, "Curran unfolds the story, what little there is, slowly. There's no need to rush since it is obvious how everything is going to shake out in the end. His approach places the focus squarely upon the actors and their work is the only redemptive aspect of the film. There's no new ground being broken here. There's no message being communicated that we haven't heard before. There's no up side to adultery. There are no benefits; no rationalizations that make it okay."

Annabelle Robertson (Crosswalk) says, "Like the other films made from Dubus' work, In the Bedroom and House of Sand and Fog, this one left me jonesin' for a Prozac smoothie. Thank goodness they didn't all come out at once; if I had watched all three back-to-back, I think I'd be in the psych ward by now. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying Dubus' movies are depressing. I'm saying that they're shoot-me-right-now-and-put-me-out-of-my-misery depressing." She offers one exception: "If you're cheating on your spouse or thinking about cheating, see this movie. It's a great advertisement for how adultery kills you, your family, your kids and your friendships."

About 70% of the mainstream reviews of the film are positive.