Eye For Film >> Movies >> An Unfinished Life (2005) Film Review
An Unfinished Life
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
How could the man who made My Life As A Dog make this? It seems beyond the realms of possibility. Lasse Hallström came from Sweden to America and his first English-language film was the wonderful, quirky, affectionate What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Now he casts J-Lo as Jean, a battered mother on the run from her abusive boyfriend (Old Etonian Damian Lewis), with 11-year-old daughter Griff (Becca Gardner) in tow. They hitch and bus to Iowa where her late husband's father Einer (Robert Redford) works a ranch on his own, now that his faithful and dogged cowhand Mitch (Morgan Freeman) is incapacitated, having been mauled by a bear.
Einer is a grumpy old moose, unfriendly and ignorant of his granddaughter's existence. He blames Jean for his son's death in a car accident and doesn't want anything to do with her. She stays - she has no options - and finds work in the diner in the small town a few miles away. The young sheriff (Josh Lucas) starts coming round, which annoys Griff and Einer.
The film is so slow, slugs feed off it. You know what's going to happen from the moment Einer sets eyes on Griff and you're right. A sentimental sub plot involving Mitch's bear slips easily into the sweet core of Einer's transformation from self-pitying curmudgeon to grandad. Somewhere along the line, Hallström cashed in his curly kale for good ole fashioned corn-on-the-cob.
The country is beautiful. The lady is beautiful. Mitch's heart is beautiful. The bear is beautiful. Griff sits in the tree house, watching the kittens. Einer milks the cow... slowly. His son is buried at the top of the field where the trees begin. Einer has put a stool up there and he goes every day to sit on it and talk to the rock that marks the grave. Someone has written An Unfinished Life on the rock. Mitch tells Einer to "stop blaming the world for... whatever." Einer carries his grief like anger in a bucket. He needs to do this or else he may forget. He's been doing it for 11 years. He looks at Griff again and when next on the stool under the tree, tells the rock, "She's a lot like you," and by golly, would you believe it, he smiles.
Take me away and drown me.
The one good thing in the whole of this wet-eyed wimp of a film is Redford. He's grown into the land even more than in The Horse Whisperer. He's so comfortable with animals and moves slow like old cowboys. Freeman is doing what he does so well - and so easily. He's the wisekick who takes care of people, like he took care of Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby and Clint in Unforgiven, except in this one it's Redford who does the caring.
J-Lo is so miscast, she could have capsized the film if it wasn't already sinking. She has no personality, no feeling for the character, no chemistry. Redford wipes her flat with an assiduous glance. She likes to be in control and out here she is not.Reviewed on: 19 Aug 2005