I was so excited to see that this movie was on pay per view. It's coming to the Dallas Angelika in 2 weeks, but I just couldn't wait. I had to watch it as soon as I had a spare moment, which just happened to be tonight. I have been waiting to see this movie for about a year and a half. The release was delayed a few times because of the problems Miramax was having, but thankfully, it finally made its way to me! Keira in a modern time period? I hardly knew what to do with myself! Unfortunately, I am unable to write a review about a Keira movie without spoilers.
Eva Mendez's Laura is hard to connect with because she is presented in a way that makes you dislike her on principle, but eventually I did end up feeling for her. The only character I never really connected with was Guillaume Canet's Alex. It's hard to say why, but it could have had to do with the fact that the whole time I kept expecting him to speak with an Irish accent but he was most certainly French. It never ceased to throw me off, and that's just my own stupidity. But also, I found his character to be the only one who never became more self-aware nor did I feel that his intentions were ever anything but selfish.
The story takes place as a side by side as Joanna's husband goes on a business trip. The actions of one spouse mirror the actions of the other, both in similar situations, just in different parts of the country. (The film cleverly does a few camera tricks with mirrors to drive home this motif.) Both spouses deal with equal temptations at the same time. Neither are really the bad (or should I say worse) guy because they are both doing things that they know are wrong or shady, both feeling guilty, and having to decided moment by moment what to do in their own specific temptation. When asked by Laura if he is happy in his marriage, Michael replies, "You can be happy and still be tempted."
The stance this film takes on cheating is that a person can't always be blamed for being attracted to another or having feelings for another. The true betrayal is subjecting your loved-one to the knowledge or the image of your desires for another. Joanna mentions a few times that Michael should have "spared" her from seeing his attraction to Laura. She wasn't upset that he was attracted to her, she was just mad that he didn't try to hide it better. She retorts, "I would've spared you." This is a kindness to be dealt your partner, in her eyes. Later, even Laura mentions the things she could never get our of her mind, when she was cheated on, were pictures she saw on a computer. Not the infidelity itself. "I could have done without the visuals." The images of cheating are more hurtful than the actions. If you have to see it, it's more of a betrayal, in this story.
As well as speaking with candor like this, the two main characters were also very self aware. They know themselves well enough to verbalize things many others wouldn't be able to. Joanna is very honest with Alex when he begins to ask about why they never have worked out. She says, "I don't know that this would be what it is on its own." She loves Alex because she idealizes him and she likes it better that way. What's rare here is she knows that's why she loves him. She won't allow more to happen because he'll become too real and the ideal will end. For a person to step out of their own head and admit this to themselves is very rare. This made her such an interesting character.
The entire movie is building up to the part where both our lovers make a decision about what to do in their temptation, creating a turning point on either front. The voice overs from one scene laid across the others' bring the actions together, even though they are geographically far apart. It links them seamlessly and makes them feel like they are happening in the same room. It's very affective and cleverly done.
In the end, the degree of betrayal on either side will have to be judged by each individual viewer. Michael has a physical affair, Joanna has an emotional affair. Which is worse? No matter what you decide, I think the film is really asking this: Is it better to know or not know when you have been betrayed in a relationship? Is it selfish to admit to it, subjecting your lover to this horrible news to clear your own conscience, or is it noble, being honest to try to work it out? And in all that goes into a marriage, how would you define betrayal?