A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is an earthy, complicated, fascinating (if somewhat overlong) glimpse into a marriage that's fallen to shambles after a tragedy. It's pretty intense, unflinching material that's not likely to be very relatable for younger teens. Expect swearing (including "a--hole," "f--k," and more), some violence (a fist fight and a few other physical confrontations, as well as a woman jumping off a bridge), drinking (mostly of the social variety), and some scenes in which couples are shown in passionate lip locks and are clearly headed for more.
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What's the story?
Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain) -- yes, named after the Beatles song -- and Conor Ludlow (James McAvoy) meet and fall in love rapidly, plunging into bliss. But many years later, they're clearly in pain and lonely, both barely coping with a tragedy that has befallen them and one unwilling to stay. Can true love withstand the worst that life can send it? Is it true love if it can't? And does true love always last?
Is it any good?
Set aside the main complaint -- that it lingers too long on many scenes, which flattens the film's momentum -- and what you have is a careful, caring post-mortem of a marriage that's lost its way. THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY has three versions: "Her," which looks at events primarily through Eleanor's eyes; "Him," through Conor's; and the merged version, "Them." The leads largely deserve kudos, especially a luminous Chastain who, in glee and in rage, brings her emotions full bore on screen. McAvoy's Conor suffers a little from being underwritten (at least in the "Them" version), but not from any shortcomings of McAvoy himself (except perhaps a bit of a loose hold on his American accent).
What's notable is how the script pulls back the lens to expose the ripple effects of a devastating tragedy -- one that doesn't just rend a couple apart but also unsettles everyone who loves both of them. Movies like these have been made before, some beautifully, but Eleanor Rigby dares to not come up with answers. Instead it reveals each of two people's point of view, as well as that of the friends and relatives who orbit them. It makes for formidable viewing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby handles the subjects of loss and marital discord. How is it different from other movies that have taken on these themes?
Who do you think the movie is aimed at? How can you tell?
Do Eleanor and Conor love each other? Does it matter?
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