First-time feature film director Ned Benson’s “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them” captures the delicate intricacies of a crumbling relationship. None of the romance is sugarcoated, and because of the intense performances, the pain of trying to fix a failing relationship is genuinely palpable.
The film brings together two films, “Her” and “Him,” which take the viewers on an experience through the eyes of both halves of a couple — first through Eleanor Rigby’s (Jessica Chastain), and then through Conor Ludlow’s (James McAvoy). These two films, revealed at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, existed before the unification of the two as “Them.” “Him” and “Her” will be released on Oct. 10.
“Them” has a seemingly simple plot — Eleanor and Conor, a married couple of seven years, are drifting apart, dealing with an unknown tragedy in different ways. The viewers do not know what the tragedy is at the start of the film, but they also do not need to understand it. “Them” is about Conor and Eleanor’s unique love for each other. Their relationship works in ways that only they can comprehend.
Conor and Eleanor dance to a song only they can hear and their actions and thoughts, whether interacting or observing each other, all symbolize a love only they can understand. And yet, the moments when they seem to understand each other are followed by the pain of a lost connection, one that they once felt and long to reestablish.
Chastain and McAvoy have on-screen chemistry that feels real. Side-by-side, they deliver raw and powerful performances. Chastain remains convincing and lovable, whether portraying Eleanor in the present or the pre-tragedy past.
The two riveting leads are supported by an amazing cast that includes Viola Davis, Nina Arianda, Bill Hader, William Hurt and Isabelle Huppert, all of whom put the final dramatic touches on the film.
“Them” connects to its audience on a larger scale with examples of love, relationships and tragedy, as well as loneliness and the solitude found in regaining independence. It ultimately shows that while happy experiences are always shared with loved ones, a tragedy often isolates a person, and once that happens, it is undoable. Viewers will have their own subjective experience of the film and see what they want to see because, in the end, the film is not only about Eleanor and Conor — it is a universal story about how every couple finds their own private language based on shared experiences.
Hints and clues as to what has happened to Eleanor and Conor are peppered throughout the film, and it culminates in a devastating emotional blow that unveils the couple’s past. “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them” serves to remind the audience that emotions and experiences are always shared, and no one should have to go through a tragedy alone.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Sept. 11 print edition. Email Nomko Baatar at [email protected]