The Life Before Her Eyes
Distributed By: Magnolia Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I review movie soundtracks, I don’t just listen to the music. I research the composer and the storyline so I can understand why the composer created certain pieces of musical score for certain parts of the film. When I listened to the soundtrack James Horner composed for The Life Before Her Eyes, I was intrigued by the storyline of the film – how the power of one decision could change the outcome of your entire life. The music just seemed to spur that interest to the point that when I saw the film on the shelf in the local rental store, I simply had to check it out.
Diana is a high school student with her whole life ahead of her. She wants to experience all that life has to offer. In contrast, her best friend Maureen is more restrained, choosing the path of the “good girl.” The two girls are exact opposites, but drawn together in a friendship that grows more powerful as time passes. Unfortunately, that friendship is put to the test the day a student sets out on a path of destruction at their school, using an automatic weapon to mow down students without mercy. Coming upon the two friends, he offers them a choice – which one of the girls should he kill? The decision they make will have a lasting impact on both their lives.
After reading the plot behind The Life Before Her Eyes, a movie based upon a novel by Laura Kasischke, one would think this is a movie about a school shooting. However, in this film, the school shooting is simply an event…a catalyst. The movie doesn’t revolve around the shooter or why he did what he did. This is a story about one woman and how that one decision, that took a matter of seconds to make, will change her life forever. When I rented the film, I thought that this would be a movie about survivor’s guilt. Man, was I ever wrong. There is an amazing plot twist in this film that I never saw coming, making this movie so much more than I had ever imagined it to be.
The Life Before Her Eyes is one of those films in which clues to the mystery surrounding the plot twist are interspersed throughout the entire film. The minute the twist is revealed, you will begin to start thinking back to several moments in the film. You might even want to review the entire movie to look for all of the hidden clues that lead up to the twist. I love movies that force you to pay attention to the little things in a movie…things you might think were insignificant that have a major impact on the film.
The acting in the film was superb. Evan Rachel Wood is incredibly believable as young Diana, a teenager whose outward appearances hide an inner pain that only Maureen can ease. Eva Amuri portrays Maureen and, despite the fact that she was not a teenager when this movie was filmed, was very believable in her role. Watching her act, I had the strangest sense that I knew her from something, but couldn’t quite place where I had seen her. Well, doing some research on Amuri, I discovered that I hadn’t seen her in any films, but I did recognize her from somewhere – her mother is award-winning actress Susan Sarandon. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I’ve never been much of an Uma Thurman fan, but after this movie, I will be happy to sing her praises. Portraying an adult Diana (and no, by telling you this, I haven’t revealed anything about the movie – trust me), Uma Thurman does an excellent job of portraying the anguish experienced by this character throughout the film.
After you see the film for the first time, watch it again and take note of a few things – the subtle changes in color between scenes of young Diana and adult Diana. I had initially thought I was reading a little bit too much into things, but this color change was confirmed in a documentary about the film. Try to find the small clues you might have missed hiding in plain sight throughout the film. Then, if you are fortunate enough to be watching the film on DVD, check out the documentary Flashback: The Life Before Her Eyes. Don’t watch the documentary before the film or it will be ruined for you. The documentary is a 53-minute eye-opening experience featuring interviews with the director Vadim Perelman, novelist Laura Kasischke, Uma Thurman, Eva Amuri, Evan Rachel Wood, and other members of the cast, plus interviews with the production designer, producer, and co-producer, each revealing interesting things about the movie’s production. After that you might want to sample the other extras present on the DVD version of the film which include five deleted scenes, an alternate ending (not much different from the original one), Reflections Back and Beyond which is a collection of interviews with people who have some rather interesting experiences relevant to this film, a flower photo gallery and a flower montage (flowers are a very important aspect of this film).
Renting The Life Before Her Eyes, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The story sounded intriguing, but sometimes that simply isn’t enough. Well, I needn’t have worried. The Life Before Her Eyes was an incredibly enjoyable experience made even more so by the surprising plot twist at the end of the movie. I literally exclaimed, “No way!! I never saw that coming!” This is a terrific movie experience for any film aficionado. The plot twist makes it a movie you’ll want to watch more than once. Looking for something to watch this weekend? Check out The Life Before Her Eyes, a film experience that definitely does not disappoint.