THE LIFE BEFORE HER EYES

Vadim Perelman’s dour drama is one of the best-looking films I can imagine about such a disturbing, dark subject. Uma Thurman is Diana McFee, a woman who survived a would-be massacre at her Catholic high school 20-some years ago. At the time, she (portrayed as a high schooler by Evan Rachel Wood) and her friend Maureen (the quirky and lovely Eva Amurri) were traumatized by the incident. Now, Diana is married to her college professor (Brett Cullen of “Lost”). On the eve of the anniversary, Diana is feeling the strain – false alarms, panic attacks, etc. So far, the premise could also work for a modern slasher movie, but this is a more thoughtful and inspired tale. The film flashes back and forth between memories leading up to the incident and Diana’s present – which is haunted by her past. More I will not reveal (nor should anyone), but those who have a problem with how this film turns out are, I think, mistaken. There’s a bit of trickery in the vein of Marc Forster’s “Stay” (2005), but I’m not sure that this film is any less effective – perhaps even more so, given the level of the performances. Vadim Perelman, who directed, is the man who so wonderfully brought us “House of Sand and Fog” (2003), which was my favorite film of its year. Here, he has created no less of a great-looking film about similarly dark subject matter, and it has turned out beautifully. Working with cinematographer Pawel Edelman (Polanski’s “Oliver Twist” and “The Pianist”), every single shot (from the first to the last) looks like a painting – or a glossy photo out of a magazine. Perelman, working from a screenplay by Emil Stern based on the novel by Laura Kasischke, has crafted a stunningly beautiful portrait of survivor’s guilt, trauma and how those can affect a life.

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