6 November 2016 | vchimpanzee
Complicated, confusing but apparently well done
The movie begins with a lot of photos of African and Middle Eastern people, in countries where there is instability. What have I gotten myself into? But this is the excellent work of photographer Lee, who is back home in the United States. She has broken up with boyfriend John, but she needs some of her equipment back from him and he's not answering the phone. She goes to his house and it's obvious the place has been abandoned, but there is food no one has eaten (no one human, anyway). Something has happened. She goes to the cops. Sgt. Goodman seems helpful. Later it is clear he has done a thorough job of investigating, and he does come up with answers.
Lee goes to an exhibit of her photography. Her daughter Jessie is also a photographer, but her photos are merely art (very good art, too) rather than serving any substantial purpose. Jessie and Lee have a difficult relationship since Lee was hardly ever around when she was a child. And Lee's father Malik is now her ex-husband but they seem to have a friendly relationship.
The photos are reminders of traumatic events, and with all that is going on in her life, Lee ends up in a mental institution.
Four months earlier, Lee was recovering in a rehab facility from a bombing in Somalia. That's where she met John, who was also hurt and was so nice to her there.
Then we go back to the present. Peter, a lawyer is also in the hospital receiving therapy. Dr. Bloom is treating them both. What a shame. I was enjoying the scenes from the past.
But we'll get back to that. Lee will get out of the hospital and see the storage facility where John works and homeless Thomas lives. Lee and John have an enjoyable relationship which starts with her taking photos of him. Only later does it get troubled.
And back to the present. It gets very confusing. Lee continues her therapy, worried that she killed John because she remembers doing something that could have killed him. Did she really? And Lee and Peter meet and become friends. One reason she likes him: he looks like John, but without a beard. And this is connected with the fact that the credits list a "Real Peter". I won't say why.
Lee's relationship problems are complicated further, both four months ago and in the present, by her difficulties with Jessie.
Also, we get to see Lee at work in Somalia with her translator. I'm going to guess her name is Hawa, from looking at the credits, but I didn't get her name from watching. Actually, I'd like to have seen more of these scenes.
If the back and forth isn't confusing enough, some scenes are repeated, with some missing detail included on the second, third or fourth time.
And we finally get some answers. Not the ones I was expecting or hoping for.
Jennifer Jason Leigh is not that cute teenager from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". I forget how many years ago that was. Someone in the movie comments that Lee looks younger than her age, but I think she looks her age. In some scenes she makes an effort to look good, but really her looks aren't that important since she has such an appealing personality. When she's not depressing. Even in those other scenes, I eventually adjust because Leigh does such a good job overall. She gives us quite a range of emotions and feelings, from nearly helpless or mentally incapacitated to troubled and confused to very confident, though I'm happiest when she's pleasant and funny. Yes, this is occasionally a romantic comedy.
Martin Henderson effectively shows us two very different characters.
Marianne Jean-Baptiste makes an excellent therapist. I would have been happier if the camera operator could have stayed still in her scenes.
I was very surprised to see Meat Loaf in the credits. I don't care for the singer at all, but I knew the actor playing Sgt. Goodman did a good job, but I never suspected, even though I had seen the name earlier, that it was him.
Alia Shawkat does a good job too as the troubled daughter.
Overall, this is worth seeing, if you're willing to be challenged.