26 September 2016

An Unfinished Life (starring Jennifer Lopez and Robert Redford)

I expect Amazon recommended this film to me because Morgan Freeman is one of the main characters, and I’ve very much liked other DVDs where he has starred. I put it on my wishlist a couple of years ago, and was given it for Christmas last year. It’s taken this long to decide to watch it, and we liked it very much.

The story starts with the aftermath of domestic violence. Jean (Jennifer Lopez) finally makes the decision, pushed by her eleven-year-old daughter Griff (Becca Gardner) to leave her boyfriend. They make their way to her father-in-law Einer’s ranch, but he is still grieving the loss of his son, and blames Jean….

It takes a while for the movie to get going, after the initial drama, as there’s a lot of backstory to understand. But I like a gentle pace, developing characters and rounding out the past. Einer is brilliantly portrayed by Robert Redford, and his only friend Mitch, who is seriously injured, is played by Morgan Freeman.

The plot itself is perhaps predictable: ‘Heidi’ is probably the story best-known for a crusty old man who has his heart melted by his granddaughter. But the circumstances are very different; Griff is interested in farming, riding and even car mechanics. The close friendship between Einer and Mitch works well and is quite moving at times; it’s a good device to show Einer as a likeable person underneath his bitterness.

Overall it’s a story about coming to terms with the past, about forgiveness, and emotional healing, and the need to live life as it is rather than continually regretting the past. But the direction and the acting make it above average; we were particularly impressed with Becca Gardner as Griff, which was apparently the actress’s debut in films.

There are places where the story becomes quite tense: a bear is stalking the neighbourhood, and, mirroring this, Jean’s ex-boyfriend is trying to find her again. The contrast is shown between the natural tendencies of a wild animal and the cruelty of a human. There’s more violence than I’m comfortable with, although it’s necessary for the story and there’s nothing too gory.

The rating is 12 (PG-13 in the US) which is probably due to the violence and some instances of ‘strong’ language. There’s nothing else that would make this unsuitable for children, and the inclusion of a child may make this more appealing to younger teens.

Definitely recommended.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's DVD Reviews

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