The Life Before Her Eyes

Vadim Perelman’s adaptation of Laura Kasischke's novel about a woman haunted by the decision she made as a terrified teenager is gorgeously photographed and hauntingly acted by stars Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood, but at heart it's a sub-Twilight Zone head game that wears out its welcome before springing its ultimate revelation. Fifteen years ago,...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Vadim Perelman’s adaptation of Laura Kasischke's novel about a woman haunted by the decision she made as a terrified teenager is gorgeously photographed and hauntingly acted by stars Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood, but at heart it's a sub-Twilight Zone head game that wears out its welcome before springing its ultimate revelation.

Fifteen years ago, art-history professor Diana (Thurman) was trapped in the middle of a Columbine-style massacre. Seventeen-year-old senior Diana (Wood), a wild child, and her church-going best friend, Maureen (Eva Amurri), were trapped in a bathroom by a gun-toting classmate, who leveled his weapon at the girls and ordered them to choose which one he was going to kill. The film toggles back and forth between the lazy, hazy summer days before the shooting, and the present day, as Diana grows increasingly nervous and unsettled as she contemplates an upcoming memorial ceremony. Married to Paul (Brett Cullen), an older professor she met shortly before the shooting, and the mother of angel-faced Emma (Gabrielle Brennan), Diana picks at memories of her old boyfriend, small-time drug dealer Marcus (Oscar Isaac), her own single mother (Molly Price), who always seemed angry and harried, and the supportive, well-behaved Maureen, the anchor to whom Diana chained her increasingly wayward life. Now Diana feels as though she's become her frustrated, disappointed mother: Emma has taken to playing frightening hide-and-seek games, she feels distant from Paul and strangely disconnected from her own picture-perfect life, an existence her restless, underprivileged younger self could never have imagined would be hers.

THE LIFE BEFORE HER EYES tips its hand early and often -- if the title doesn't tell you who died in that bathroom, the repeated snatches of Zombies' "She's Not There" will. Knowing what happened (if not exactly how) doesn't diminish the film's fine performances -- Amurri, Susan Sarandon's daughter, is every bit as good as Wood and Thurman -- but it's sad to see such subtle, wrenchingly emotional work expended on such trifling material.

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  • Released: 2008
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Vadim Perelman’s adaptation of Laura Kasischke's novel about a woman haunted by the decision she made as a terrified teenager is gorgeously photographed and hauntingly acted by stars Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood, but at heart it's a sub-Twilight Zone h… (more)

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