We Don’t Live Here Anymore, 2004, 3 ¼ stars

A celluloid study in adultery

From OrlandoCityBeat.com, September 10, 2004

With each role, Naomi Watts slowly establishes herself as one of the most captivating and honest actresses in Hollywood, and backed by three other strong performances, she brings to life We Don’t Live Here Anymore, a meandering and slow-paced yet painfully and effectively real psycho-sexual drama by novice director John Curran.

Based on short stories by Andre Dubus, the writer of In the Bedroom, this is the story of two married couples who share close friendships, similar careers and adulterous affairs with each others’ spouses – a Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice with teeth. And although the movie’s methodical tempo won’t agree with everyone, and the script often fails to build momentum, the film’s style reflects the quiet desperation and confusion of life.

Watts (Mulholland Drive, The Ring) plays Edith Evans, a young mom married to Hank (Peter Krause, HBO’s Six Feet Under), a self-absorbed writer who may or may not know about his wife’s infidelity with his best friend, Jack. Even if he does know, he doesn’t care, as this frees him to cheat with students at the college at which he teases and Edith’s best friend, Terry. “It’s much easier living with a woman who feels loved,” Hank tells Jack.

Mark Ruffalo (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Collateral) matches Watts’ performance with a subtle and poignant one of his own. Because he doesn’t show the lack of guilt inherent in his friend, we’re able to see in him more of the shame, reluctance and embarrassment that often accompanies an affair. In addition, he projects a quiet sadness as he seems almost numb to the ridicule heaped upon him by his wife, Terry, played almost equally as passionately by Laura Dern (Jurassic Park) when one of the affairs is revealed.

Rarely are actors so exposed emotionally to both each other and to their audience. And despite a lot of physical exposure and raw sex scenes, Curran makes the intelligent choice to have little or no nudity, which allows us to absorb the energy, lust and pain of the characters without being too distracted by body parts. Some lack of tension and a somewhat predictable plot leaves one wondering briefly where the story is headed, but the smart script and spot-on performances save the movie from drifting too far off course.

Seldom does a film take the time to delve beneath the surface of sex to find out what role jealousy, humiliation and self-worth, not to mention children, play in an affair. The long, brooding, silent close-ups and strained scenes of family life are interspersed effectively with the alternatingly depressing and tender sex scenes to create a collage of the breakdowns of marriages and friendships.

“Even adultery has a morality to it,” Edith says, and Dubus’ script explores not only that morality or lack of it, but all the sexual feelings and heartache that comes with it.