Film review: ‘Eleanor Rigby’ distills two movies into one

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them stars James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain.
Jeffrey M. Anderson

Three stars

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis. Directed by Ned Benson. Rated R. Opens Friday.

Last year, writer and director Ned Benson shot two separate feature-length movies, telling the same story from two different points of view, differing slightly according to memory and perception. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him followed Conor (James McAvoy) after a devastating family tragedy, and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her followed his wife, Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain), as she dealt with things her own way. Now Benson has edited the two into one film, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, opening this week.

All of the effects of the previous two films are gone, and the combined version is ultimately just a normal narrative. It’s like watching Memento forward. The story is there, but there’s not much to make it special. Benson’s dialogue is probing, with characters asking questions and listening to one another. His fine master-class moments attracted performers like Viola Davis and William Hurt to supporting roles. But the script sometimes feels too precious, and Benson knows it: The characters backtrack and balk when their words go too far and become embarrassing. As a director, he has a quiet and wistful shooting style. The movie doles out information sporadically, naturally. It’s generally unhurried. Yet at 122 minutes, it sometimes makes you wish it would hurry at least a little.

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