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Everything Put Together
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by Natasha Theobald

"An odd mix of heart-wrenching drama and stylistic thriller."
4 stars

Angie is a wife and soon-to-be mother surrounded by other wives and mothers. They attend swim aerobics classes together. They congregate at family birthday parties around cakes and pools. The husbands are friends; they are friends. They are living their lives together.

Angie is there when another friend goes into labor and stays with her through the delivery. She is expecting her baby at any time and preparations are under way for its arrival. The crib has been set up in the nursery. Decorations and mobiles await only the newest addition to the family. But, something doesn't feel quite right to Angie. She is worried. She is right.

Less than a day after her son, Gabriel, is born, his heart stops. The doctor gives her statistics on SIDS deaths, her husband, in his own grief, gives her love and support, and her friends give her space. Perhaps it is because they can't bear the pain for her. Perhaps the idea that something so horrible could happen, every mother's worst nightmare, is too much for them. They distance themselves from her tragedy. It's almost as if she might somehow bring something wrong or bad to their doorsteps if they let her.

For Angie's part, she makes everyone a little nervous and uneasy. They are never sure what she might do, and we are never sure, either. She sneaks into a friend's house to hold her baby son. She starts hanging out at the park to be close to other people's children. She becomes unstable and unpredictable.

The film is shot in an ultra-realistic manner with very real lighting and almost a documentary style. That could be just another way of saying they didn't have much money. But, what they did have was a good script, great actors, and an imaginative and visually exciting director and cinematographer. We go from the natural light from before the birth to a strange, uneasy, more colorless picture. The change carries the audience with Angie down a road we're not sure we want to travel. For some reason, we are now in a horror movie. Angie's lack of balance also is reflected in the music and other noises. There are sounds of babies who are not there crying. We don't ever know where this is taking us, the audience, or why we should be scared. But, the end, the payoff, is worth the uncertainty and pain.

The performances were universally good. I was particularly fond of Justin Louis as Angie's husband, Russ. He grieves, but in a more grounded way than she does. He never falters when she needs him. He deals with the outside world that she can't face. He is always just there. There is a nice scene where he is confronted by one of the other husbands whose wife can't handle Angie. He is knowing and angry and understanding and frustrated. He juggles dozens of reactions, making the audience feel every twist and turn in his mind.

Radha Mitchell is good as Angie. To her credit, we never know what to expect from Angie. She was off kilter, but never in an over-the-top way. Her performance teetered from sad to creepy with an honest edge. And, the look on her face at the end of the film laid bare what it all meant unmistakably.

This film discovers the true nature of people, in good times and bad. It uncovers the unpredictable in life, and in each of us.

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originally posted: 07/12/02 16:09:59
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