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Number of Reviews on MG: 1524
Unfinished Life, An
2005 - PG-13 - 105 Mins.
Director: Lasse Hallström
Producer: Joe Roth, Harvey Weinstein
Written By: Mark Spragg, Virginia Korus Spragg
Starring: Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, Morgan Freeman, Josh Lucas, Becca Gardner
Review by: Joe Rickey
Official Site: www.miramax.com/anunfinishedlife/
   

Grumpy Men 3
Jean Gilkyson (Jennifer Lopez) has had a history of bad relationships. She has basically succumbed to being a weakling and lives in fear of her mates along with her young daughter Griff (Becca Gardner). However, after a fight with her latest boyfriend Gary (Damian Lewis), Jean has had enough. One day she takes Griff and the two run away. However, the only place they have to go is the plains of Wyoming, where her ex-father-in-law resides.

Einar (Robert Redford) is a seemingly aloof individual who lives in complete seclusion on his farm. Aside from a few trips into town, the only face he regularly sees is that of his best friend Mitch (Morgan Freeman). Mitch was mauled by a bear a year ago and lives in a cabin outside of Einar's house. One of the reasons Einar remains so seclusive is because of a tragedy. Several years ago, his son Griffin was killed in a car accident - with Jean at the wheel. He has always disliked Jean since then, since he believed that she was the cause of his death. Imagine his surprise when Jean and Griff show up at his doorstep asking for a place to stay.

These four people couldn't be more different in their opinions and all have been through their fair share of pain and anguish. But by living together, they must come to terms with the demons that have been haunting them and recreate a family that was shattered. This leads to their growth as individuals and helps them overcome things they never thought they could accomplish.

Filmed back in 2003, 'An Unfinished Life' has been the subject of much discussion and controversy. It seemed like a dream project that was sure to garner some attention during awards season. It had a fantastic director and a respected cast, including a dramatic turn from Jennifer Lopez - an actress who has never been given much respect. However, for some strange reason, it kept being postponed. Now after several release date changes, it finally sees the light of day over two years from when it was filmed. Miramax has become notorious for this sort of treatment, doing something similar to 2002's 'Gangs of New York' and last year's 'Proof.' Simply put, 'An Unfinished Life' didn't deserve this treatment. In fact, even though it has a history of bad buzz surrounding it, it is a truly fantastic film.

The performances are fantastic. Robert Redford delivers a powerful and effective performance as a tortured individual, and you can really understand his pain and relate to his character. His development seems realistic and he actually becomes quite likable. His character actually reminded me a lot of Frankie in 'Million Dollar Baby' more than anyone else. Jennifer Lopez gives the best performance of her career here with a strong and emotional portrayal of Jean. After reading the novel, I had my doubts of what Lopez could pull off, but she exceeded all of my expectations. Morgan Freeman also does extremely well. He is wise and charismatic but also lends the character a lot of emotion and backbone.

The supporting actors are also very strong. Becca Gardner makes her debut here and is really the heart and soul of the picture. The character she plays is very complex and mischievous, and she pulls it off brilliantly. Josh Lucas is solid but a bit underused as the friendly town sheriff. Damian Lewis is actually quite creepy as the vicious Gary. Camryn Manheim is also excellent as a local restaurant owner with a dark past. She may have only one key scene, but it is one of the movie's highlights.

Director Lasse Hallstrom has a strength for making visually beautiful films, and this is no exception. This is definitely one of his strongest works to date. The scenery is amazing and some of the shots are truly unforgettable. This is his best work since 1999's 'The Cider House Rules' and makes up for the disappointment of 'The Shipping News.' Thankfully, the movie is actually quite faithful to the novel. This is due to the fact that the original author Mark Spragg serves as one of the screenwriters. Some of the dialogue is very well-written and keeps the film moving at a nice pace. I found the whole film very interesting and the symbolism of certain events served as a good form of discussion after the film.

Overall, 'An Unfinished Life' is one of the very best films of last year. The performances are all brilliant and the direction is also spectacular. The film also features a strong and emotional story about grief, family and forgiveness.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

 
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