We Don’t Live Here Anymore is filled with several powerhouse performances, and the rather dark theme of adultery among friends makes the film a late summer highlight. The film has a solid screenplay that carefully dissects the inner workings of the modern-day relationship.
Boasting one of the strongest casts for an independent film, We Don’t Live Here Anymore has its veteran actors pulling-off career bests. Laura Dern is nothing short of a revelation playing the part of the jaded housewife with undeniable believability. Mark Ruffalo escapes the typecasting that has branded him a loaf or stoner: We Don’t Live Here Anymore showcases Ruffalo’s ability to carry a film. Very few actresses can dive into a career and become unrecognizable; Naomi Watts is one of them, moving from grief (21 Grams) to the hopelessness of being trapped a relationship that has run its course.
The low-budget drama is pulled along with John Curran’s direction, which seamlessly transitions from supposed moments of happiness to the unspeakable pain that follows knowing the one you love is no longer interested. Larry Gross’ script is what gives We Don’t Live Here Anymore a realistic feel that pulses as the two relationships are pushed to their breaking points.
Jack (Ruffalo) and Terry Linden (Dern) and Hank (Peter Krause) and Edith Evans (Watts) are very different when it comes to how they raise their families and handle their households. The two relationships do share one striking similarity: their supposedly happy marriages are slowly deteriorating under their noses, and no one seems to be capable of doing anything about it. When the film opens, Jack and Edith mutually choose to sleep together, a decision that impacts all four lives and starts an inevitable chain of events that forces the characters to uncover sinister aspects about one another.
The affair escalates between Jack and Edith as they embark on romantic rendezvous in the woods and nights of passion at cheap motels. The conflict between Jack and Terry is Jack’s boredom and his issues with Terry’s drinking. Keeping Jack from leaving is the possibility that he may lose his two children and the comfortable life he has made for himself.
We Don’t Live Here Anymore is based on two short stories by Andre Dubus: Adultery and the titular tale. Dubus’ material has become rather lucrative, as his story Killings was adapted into 2001’s Oscar-nominated In the Bedroom. We Don’t Live Here Anymore beautifully combines both stories into a pitch-perfect drama filled with simmering resentment.
The performances by Ruffalo, Dern, Watts and Krause are exceptional. Each actor helps to further develop his or her character and evoke sympathy and understanding from the audience.
We Don’t Live Here Anymore might as well have been re-titled “The Laura Dern Show,” as she’s reached a new level in her career. Dern’s agonizing housewife is moving; her performance will have audiences on the verge of her numerous emotions, from her angst to depression to insecurity.
Watts restrains her emotion to play Edith, a woman who knows her husband has been unfaithful but turns a blind eye to his infidelity. Watts is the best counter balance for Dern’s uncanny, emotionally charged performance.
Best known for his work on TV’s Six Feet Under, Krause is wisely cast as Hank, the creative writing professor with a wandering eye despite his wife and daughter at home. Hank admits to Jack that sexual encounters outside of marriage are activities he willingly participates in frequently.
Curran masterfully handles the unhealthy human relationships of these four very flawed characters and doesn’t pass judgement.
Instead, he leaves the viewers to develop their own opinion on the film’s characters. Curran never allows the film to become too melodramatic or wordy, but takes a very honest approach at the material.
Screenwriter Gross won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at this year’s Sundance film festival for his amazingly written script for the film. Gross’ work has given each of the film’s couples personality and never allows for the premise to become dated or cliched.
We Don’t Live Here Anymore is in essence a harsh portrait of the devastation of two relationships between deceitful friends; their adulterous actions stem from desire and discontent with each other. The film recognizes that there isn’t an easy answer pertaining to what each of the film’s leads experience, and leaves the audience wondering as to whether or not the situation will get improve.
We Don’t Live Here Anymore is a chilling study of the shortcomings within human nature and becomes the infirmity of otherwise solid relationships.