Director Joseph Ruben, whose THE STEPFATHER (1987) is a criminally underrated thriller, is an expert at wringing suspense from the spectacle of domestic impulses perverted into psychosis. But his best efforts can't keep Gerald Di Pego's puzzle-picture script from toppling into absurdity as it lurches from melodrama to psychological thriller with supernatural overtones to full-blown exercise in X-Files-style nuttiness. Fourteen months ago, Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore) lost her 9-year-old son, Sam (Christopher Kovaleski), in a small-plane crash. She remains inconsolable despite the unflagging support of her husband (Anthony Edwards) and regular sessions with Dr. Munce (Gary Sinise), so mired in her extravagant misery that she's compelled, like some deranged grief junkie, to spend hours of every day fingering Sam's belongings and poring over photographs and videotapes. Telly's bereavement takes a GASLIGHT turn when everyone suddenly begins insisting that Telly never had a child — her husband, her neighbors, her therapist… everyone. Telly's cherished videotapes are blank, photos that once included Sam no longer do, all mentions of the fatal crash have vanished from the library's newspaper archive. Her therapist insists that she's in the grip of a spectacular case of post-traumatic stress syndrome brought on by the horrific miscarriage during which Telly nearly died. But she doesn't believe a word of it: Telly knows with every fiber of her being that she had a son, and won't rest until she figures out what's going on. Her reluctant ally in windmill-tilting is Ash Corelli (Dominic West), whose rapid slide into alcoholism coincided with the death of his forgotten daughter Lauren (Kathryn Faughnan), who was Sam's best friend and died on the same flight. Once Telly has guided Ash to his own repressed memories of his little girl lost, their investigation attracts the attention of the NYPD, the NSA and god knows who else; they're forced to flee, pursuing tantalizing clues that lead to frustrating dead ends. Whatever happened to their children, Ash and Telly have hurled themselves headlong into some very deep and murky waters. Ruben immediately establishes a chilling atmosphere of vague dread, relying on a gray color palette and bird's-eye long shots to maintain a mood of bleak paranoia long after the story's lunatic twists have begun to overwhelm Moore and West's fine, subtle performances. But Di Pego's convoluted construction is all frippery with no foundation, and eventually its intricate inventions just seem ridiculous.
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 2004
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Director Joseph Ruben, whose THE STEPFATHER (1987) is a criminally underrated thriller, is an expert at wringing suspense from the spectacle of domestic impulses perverted into psychosis. But his best efforts can't keep Gerald Di Pego's puzzle-picture scri… (more)