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An Unfinished Life (Unrated)

Release Date: September 9th, 2005 by Miramax Films.
The Cast: Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, Morgan Freeman, Josh Lucas, Damian Lewis, Camryn Manheim, Becca Gardner.
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom.

BASIC PREMISE: After her boyfriend (Lewis) abuses her, Jean (Lopez) and her daughter Griff (Gardner) move in with Einar (Redford), Jean's father-in-law, and his injured friend Mitch (Freeman).

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: There is a lot to enjoy in this very well-cast film. First of all, the acting is superb all across the board. Even Lopez manages to be convincing. As usual, Freeman and Redford are both terrific and add plenty of gravitas in every one of their scenes. Lewis is affectively creepy as the abusive boyfriend who stalks Jean. However, the real surprise here is Gardner as the young, very likeable Griff. She is unfortunate to be caught in the middle of a battle between her mother and her grandfather, whom she both loves dearly. The reason for the friction between Jean and Einar makes a lot of sense, but it is not immediately explained, which adds some mystery and suspense to the plot. There are other small mysterious that gradually come to the surface, such as how Mitch became injured. The script has very little humor other than one awkwardly funny scene when Griff mistakes Einar and Mitch for gay lovers. As a drama, this film works very well because the characters gradually become more and more developed as time progresses. The only problem is that the plot twists are unsurprising because of the predictable, formulaic script. Fortunately, it is easy to forget how by-the-numbers the script is because of the splendid, talented cast. On top of that, the director is Lasse Hallstrom, who directed such marvelous films as The Cider House Rules and Chocolat. The cinematography is very good and the scenery is very picturesque. In the end, you end up truly caring for every character except the abusive boyfriend.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: The most moving, recurring theme throughout this film is the importance of forgiveness. This theme shows up especially in the relationship between Jean and Einar, but also between Einar and Mitch. Mitch has a lot of compassion and joy despite that he had been injured by a bear. He has managed to suppress his anger simply to enjoy life. It is not always easy to confront your past problems, but at some point in your life you have to. Otherwise, you feel emotionally trapped and lonely. It is very uplifting and satisfying to watch Jean and Einar gradually patch up their wounded, dysfunctional relationship.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Very predictable, formulaic plot.


THE BOTTOM LINE: Although its plot is very predictable from the start, it is surprisingly affecting and entertaining thanks to impressive directing, great cinematography, and, especially, very good acting from every one of the talented thespians--old and young.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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