Time: 112 mins.
An intensely moving tale led by the painfully sweet performance of Gyllenhaal that has more to say about finding one's place in life than it does about how to deal with death. Sarandon and Hoffman are superb as the grieving parents who have no idea how to move on with their lives after the violent murder of their only daughter. The trio, which includes Jake as the daughter's fiance, bumps and grinds into each other, floundering for peace, running from guilt and desperate to find a reason to get up in the morning. Based on events from writer/director Silberling's own life, there's an acute poignancy flowing through the entire film that grabs the heart and refuses to let go. The story begins at the funeral, which centers the attention on the survivors instead of the victim. This is their journey and it's an emotional roller coaster ride punctuated mostly by silence since what is there really to say. How does one comfort people faced with this situation?
Joe (Gyllenhaal) tries by being the son-in-law Ben (Hoffman) and JoJo (Sarandon) need him to be. He and Diana moved back to her parents town to begin their almost married future. After the funeral, Joe continues to stay on because they want him to, but also because he has no idea what his new future should entail. Ben ropes him into becoming a partner in his real estate business, the future that would have been if Diana was still around. Joe is so desperate to give them any bit of happiness he goes along with the scheme. He knows it's not going to work out, but until he discovers his own direction, he plays along with Ben's wishes. He's suffocating under the weight of his own emotions and reaches out to Bertie (Pompeo), a woman dealing with similar issues. Neither is looking for solace in the arms of another, but they are drawn to each other on a level neither can deny. It's his relationship with Bertie that allows Joe to become truthful with himself and his once future in-laws. After weeks of being everything to everybody, he finally puts his feelings for Diana to rest and re-enters the world of the living. Ben and JoJo are forced to do the same, creating a new future for themselves, with only each other to depend on. It's not what they hoped for, but it's all they've got.
Considering the circumstances, the love affair between Joe and Bertie would have been extremely uncomfortable and slightly unbelievable if the characters weren't just as taken aback and troubled by their burgeoning feelings. Silberling's quiet, simple and insightful dialogue leads the way for pitch-perfect, heart-breakingly honest moments between the young lovers, giving the audience a future to hope for in the midst of this horrible mess. Lest we come off disliking Joe for his carnal desires, Silberling makes sure he has an excuse for his actions. It's nothing that will knock your socks off, yet it packs a real emotional wallop for all three survivors. However, it's Gyllenhaal's tortured Joe who becomes the heart of the film. His discomfort is palpable, as he fakes a life he never wanted to begin with. His somber eyes, tense slouch and tight smile convey more than words ever could. In fact, he has fewer lines than any lead in a long time. It just goes to show how powerful silence can be. His emotions are very clear regardless of how little he actual says. He steals the show from two Academy Award winning actors and that's a real coup.