Actors: Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Peter Krause, Naomi Watts
Rating: R (for sexual content and language)
Run Time: 1 hr. 44 min.
In this adaptation of two novellas by Andre Dubus, John Curran explores the roots and consequences of adultery
on two couples who swap partners in a desperate attempt to escape the alienation that plagues them. Peter Krause, Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern and Naomi Watts turn in flawless performances—particularly Ruffalo, who demonstrates rare vulnerability for a male lead, and Dern, who almost makes us sympathize—but they are not enough to pull this film from the dungeon of despair.
Interestingly, though Dubus’ writings typically portray humanity at its worst, they also tend to reflect his deep faith in God. None of this appears in the film, however, which has been stripped of hope and light in a blatantly existential take. Even a reference to Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich is reinterpreted, despite its obvious Christian message. What remains are powerful portrayals of isolation, anger and the damning penalty of lust.