The memorable character actor John Carroll Lynch, so chilling as the prime suspect in Zodiac, plays the supporting role of Howard, a decent man who hates his wife, in Things We Lost in the Fire. How such a husband negotiates a life of uneventful loathing would make a great, adult movie. But it’s not this one, a safely false, glamorized weepie about Audrey (Halle Berry), a lovely wife and mother whose husband, Brian (David Duchovny), is a sexy saint. And then he dies. In her grief, Audrey reaches out to Brian’s down-and-out best friend, Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), spontaneously inviting him to live in her elegant garage.
Jerry is only half a saint — he’s also a heroin addict. If you haven’t seen an actorly re-creation of withdrawal and relapsing recently, now’s your chance for a refresher. Working from a script by newcomer Allan Loeb, Danish director Susanne Bier (After the Wedding) circles Jerry with compassionate curiosity. She also finds nice cinematic shorthands for expressing Audrey’s sorrow by pulling in microscopically close on Berry’s eye, or on her slim hand with its wedding ring.
But no matter what panache Bier adds, Things We Lost is still a TV-scaled tear-duct drama about a beautiful woman who pushes past sadness in her House & Garden home. And Howard’s neighborly role is confined to popping by from time to time; he’s been Ned Flandersized. C+