The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her Blu-ray Review
Imagine having a brilliant idea for a film, then getting two incredible actors to lead said film, but having absolutely no way to market it. I imagine that’s what director Ned Benson went through with THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY. The movie is so difficult to classify that I’m not even sure how it should be reviewed. It’s essentially three films; HIM, HER and THEM, but none of those really work as a standalone film. To get the most out of it, you have to watch HIM and then HER and it helps to watch them close together. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me first try to describe what the film is and what it’s about.
At its base level, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY is a film about a married couple trying to reconnect after a tragic accident. But tragedy hits people in different ways and Benson knows this, so he decided to film this in two parts. The first part follows the tragedy from the viewpoint of the husband, Conor (James McAvoy) and the second follows the same timeline from the view of the wife, Eleanor (Jessica Chastain). The films were debuted at TIFF in 2013 to rave reviews, but the problem remained; how do you market two films that tell basically the same story? The answer is; you can’t. There’s no way the movie going public would come out to watch two 90+ minute films that don’t involve superheroes. So Benson went back to the editing room and made one movie (THEM). But THEM lost so much of the charm and soul of HIM and HER that in the end, THEM is not really a great movie. It’s passable, but it’s nothing compared to watching HIM and HER together.
I feel it works best if you start with HIM. When it begins, we don’t really know what’s going on, only that Conor and Eleanor are struggling. HIM focuses on Conor and how he copes with Eleanor needing space and eventually leaving completely. It’s clear that Conor is very much in love with Eleanor and his need for her is heart breaking and touching. He seeks solace in his best friend (Bill Hader, in a very subdued but impactful role) and father (Ciaran Hinds). But they’re limited in what they can do because they haven’t experienced the hurt and pain that Conor has and everyone is helpless to do anything to comfort him. And that tragic moment is a mystery for most of HIM and that mystery helps to build the tension as the audience tries to figure out why a seemingly happy couple could now be so torn apart. What’s also a mystery is where she went when she leaves Conor and his search for her feeds into his desperation and makes it clear just how much he misses and loves his wife.
Keep in mind that HER follows the same timeline as HIM, but in HER, the tragic event is not really a mystery (that’s why I suggest watching HIM first). We know why Eleanor is in pain and why she has to disappear. We instantly feel bad for her, but Benson does a wonderful job of not making her out to be pathetic. I’m hesitant to describe much more about HER because in HER, we learn everything we didn’t know in HIM, including where she disappeared to. One thing we never learn is exactly what happened in that tragic event, but that’s okay because the movie isn’t about the tragedy, it’s about how two people cope with it and whether or not they can find their way back to each other. HER is clearly the other half to HIM and not only fills in the plot holes, but it also fills in the character development for Eleanor and completes the story arc for both characters.
I can’t imagine many people are going to pick up THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY and for the people that do, I imagine they’ll watch THEM. After all, the Blu-ray is marketed as one movie with HIM and HER offered as a bonus feature. That’s unfortunate because of all the gimmicky movies we’ve seen in the last few years, I feel that Benson has found an innovative way to tell a wonderful story. Unfortunately, it’s just not a marketable way. Hopefully, the movie will find life on Blu-ray and people will get to experience the heart and sincerity in THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY.
I’ve already discussed the challenges the studio faced with releasing this in theaters, but it seems they had similar challenges with the Blu-ray. This is a weak effort from TWC, featuring a bland video transfer and no special features. At the very least, this deserved a commentary from Ned Benson so we could have learned more about what he went through to get the film made and how he felt about its release.
Video: None of the three films have a good transfer. The colors look saturated and the quality is subpar from what we’re used to for most newer releases.
Audio: The audio was fine.
Interview with Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy (5:03): The two stars talk very briefly about their experiences on the film. This is mostly fluff and the questions/responses don’t address much about the film.