Review: Life During Wartime

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The Pitch: It’s Happiness Jim, but not as we know it.

The Review: Todd Solondz is not a filmmaker afraid to tackle the more uncomfortable moral debates in life, or to ask his audience to consider challenging material. You might ask why people would want to watch doom, gloom and despair for two hours, but then why do people watch an Eastenders omnibus?

And actually, the similarities don’t stop there. As that soap has gotten expert at the two-hander over the years, here we are again presented with a small set of characters who interact most of the time onscreen in pairings, apart from dinner party scene.

This is a semi-sequel to Solondz’ earlier film Happiness, but the same characters have now been completely recast, presumably as a metaphor to show the way in which we change and move on. The struggle here is that many of the characters admit their inability to accomplish this, so it’s only really in the last act that we get any forward momentum.

Standouts in the acting department are Alison Janney as a proud Jewish mother and Charlotte Rampling in a small but powerfully bitter scene, although everyone else manages to look and sound suitably disaffected with life. At the end, the film feels like a snapshot in the lives of the characters, almost inviting itself to see where they’ve gotten in another ten years – you can only hope they’ve changed by then, for their sake.

Why see it at the cinema: The day-glo visuals really do work well on the cinema screen, and the drama is surprisingly intimate, even on a large screen.

The Score: 7/10

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